Posts by Travelphotolenses


Loving a city is pretty easy when you have a good friend touring you around. Miguel and I arrived in Biarritz in the morning to the open arms (actually it was double kisses… we were in France after all) of Laurent. He picked us up at the train station and brought us to our Airbnb. He was curious why we were not staying with him and I really didn’t know. I guess I am shy about asking about that kind of stuff. I was still sick and wouldn’t be much fun without a rest but we all headed out to a nice restaurant on the oceanfront. I couldn’t tell you much about it other than it had a window ledge I could rest my head on and the walk back up was a long steep pathway, but I know the view was beautiful.   Beach Parties and €100 Beer After a few hours (I think 5) rest Miguel and I were ready to enjoy this beautiful coastal town. We missed sunset by about 20 minutes, which we were disappointed about, but were certainly on time for the party! The boardwalk in Biarritz was alive with tented restaurants and bars and hundreds of people were celebrating summer with cheap eats and drinks. We met Laurent down there where he was with a few of his friends. After taking a quick look for some food we ended up grabbing a table and buckling down (because when you can get one, you hold on). Laurent brought his friend Julia over and we listened to great music and conversed with the group beside us. Julia and I danced on the sand and I’d never seen someone break loose quite like her – and it was wonderful! We sat down after the song ended and the group next to us had purchased a huge bottle of €100 beer for the table. It was quite the sight, paired with the party and the lights and the beach – it was easy to see why people had fun here.   As the night went on I got more tired and my bottle of party water was running out. We headed home to get a good nights rest once again, saying goodnight to Laurent and promising we’d call when we woke up.   Markets, Fish, and Beaches – How ‘coastal’ The next morning (ok… afternoon…) we woke up and called Laurent (who had already been up working for hours). He came down and met us at our apartment and joined us on our quest for food. We wandered down to the local market in the center of...

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The route to our first apartment was an easy one. The Metro in Paris is the best I have ever experienced and so straight forward. The stop popped up only 1 block away and the instructions from our airbnb host were very clear. We dropped our bags in our new place and google’d how to get to the Eiffel tower. My data plan was still mysteriously not working on my phone, even after an entire train ride of troubleshooting during which I got my brother to contact Samsung in Canada for an unlock code. And now that my phone was unlocked the plan itself was providing me only calling and texting, but no data. I was beginning to wonder if I would ever have an easy day. So we screenshot the route via metro and headed out so to not waste away the day, as our time in Paris was limited. Notre Dame Architecture The Metro transfer stop for the Eiffel tower was that of Notre Dame and I also knew there were crepes lingering somewhere nearby – a must in Paris. I had seen it before but Paris was an exciting opportunity for me to show Miguel around. I love Paris and the architecture and history, and it is a fun prospect to show someone around who has never really traveled at all, let alone to to a place like Paris. We walked up to a small corner creperie that I have gotten crepes at before. Unfortunately they were no longer selling them this late in the evening. So we walked straight to Notre Dame and I watched his eyes light up. Notre Dame is pretty cool building, even for those who have traveled the world and seen all types of architecture. The stonework and detail in each and every statue, the gargoyles, the giant circular stain-glass window, and just the fact that it is this dominant piece of architecture on a little island in the setting that it is! We took some photos and decided to come back the next day when it was open – as Miguel wanted to go up to the top and I, too, had never been. RER Train System We went back down to the subway and hopped on the RER train. Now – I have been to Paris twice before this and I still have no understanding of the RER system. I believe they are more long-distance trains as I believe I took one to the Palace of Versailles last time, but they make a few stops in Paris? That is my guess. And for some reason google had told us...

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GET ME ON THE GROUND! Phew! The trip to London was a bit of a bumpy one. Flight from Calgary to London We left Calgary at noon on Saturday with 30 pound backpacks and a dream. Haha! Kidding. I’m not that cliche. We left with 30 pound backpacks and early onset back pain. But we were pretty excited for our 2 month European backpacking trip! The Calgary airport was a breeze, even though Miguel was anxiously sipping his last Tim Hortons coffee. You see, Miguel hates flying… and this was about to be the biggest flight of his life. He had never left Canada before (aside from a few drives over for snowboarding in the states) and his one flight home to New Brunswick sounded like quite a terror show (lights flickering, screaming, and everything). He stood and watched planes come in, asking if they were supposed to be going that fast. I tried to reassure him, while also tease him (because that’s what love is) as we waited for our time to board. We got lucky and had an empty seat between us on the way to our layover in Toronto. He was pretty grey in the face but I assured him that shaking did not mean we lost a wing. Things were a little bumpier than usual but most of the flight was ok… until we were nearing Toronto. The captain told us we would be needing to prepare for arrival early and that there may be some turbulence. He wasn’t lying. Every time we tried to slip down between the clouds the plane would shake and drop and turn. I was trying to keep my cool so Miguel wouldn’t go into cardiac arrest, but I too was having a mini heart attack. We seemed to be turning a lot and our landing time came and went and we were still in the clouds. The Pilot apologized for the rough ride, and even sounded a bit nervous – which wasn’t reassuring. We should also apologize to Westjet for the nail marks in their seats, as we were a little on edge. I tried to hold Miguel’s hand but both of us had sweaty palms. We of course eventually landed (or I could be writing this from the ‘other side’. I guess you’ll never know). We headed to find one of the nice lounges that I am fortunate enough to have a pass for. After settling in with some free food in some comfortable chairs for a while we started talking to another couple who was from Toronto but also heading to London. We told them about our flight...

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Why do you travel?

Why do you travel?


Posted By on Jun 6, 2017

Why Travel? If you ask someone why they travel, you will likely get an answer like ‘it is fun’, or ‘I like culture’… But when you really dig into the why, travelers have a truly unique story. They have a passion that runs deeper than blood, a sense of adventure that pushes them beyond their boundaries, and a reason for dropping everything to get away and not look back. I’ve never traveled and not come back a new person. I have not gotten on a plane and come back feeling the same as when I left. I’ve never experienced a new way of life and thought ‘now I can go back to mine as it always has been’. Every trip is more than a learning experience – it is a growing experience. And the 3 root reasons for why I travel are: Joy Loss Regret At first it looks like 2 of those are negative, but only 1 is. While loss is something we all face and often a reason for people to ‘get gone’, regret is far different. This is not a regret that I am trying to overcome or run away from, it is a regret I am refusing to take over. It is wanting to live life to the fullest so I have no regret, so I can look back at my life and know I was here and I loved it and I truly lived – no matter what else happens around that. So here’s what those mean to me.   I travel to feel Joy I sit here drinking my lemon water, eating the same thing I ate yesterday, staring out the window wondering what else is out there? And I know what is out there. It’s Culture! Adventure! Experiences! Fun! Adrenaline! History! Knowledge! Friends!… LIFE. I know that in order to live that life you need a means to survive, usually in the form of monetary wealth. So I work, and I meet, and I write, and I edit, and I repeat. And I build up a bank account that I know will pay off. Because money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy the opportunity to try for it. And with each dollar and each day I feel closer. And then I get there. It’s booked. It’s here. It’s paid for. And I’m off. And that day to day life that I thought was consuming me turns into a gift. And my entire world opens up. And I feel like I can breathe and I feel freshness on my face and wind in my hair. And cliches are only experiences, and no experience is cliche. And I remember. I...

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Travel Trend Alert: Get Cheeky! What’s the latest trend in travel? Baring it all for the camera. Travelers everywhere are hopping on board this fun and *Cheeky* travel trend and mooning the camera in beautiful locations. That’s right… pants down, bums out wherever you find yourself. We decided to jump on the bandwagon as well and pantsed ourselves at the top of Heart Mountain, just outside of Canmore Alberta in Canada. It was 1 year since the first time we climbed it (which was one of our first dates) and was one of our favourite (and easy) scrambles. The scenery was beautiful and we were glossy as can be after a few hours of climbing – the perfect opportunity to shine! Cheeky Exploits We were hoping to get picked up by Cheeky Exploits, which didnt happen, but I have my own travel blog… SO WHO NEEDS THEM! (Cheeky exploits… if you are reading this… @travelphotolenses is waiting for you to share our nudity. Pa-leaseeeeeeee.   Who wore it...

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Paris, France (part 2)

Paris, France (part 2)


Posted By on Mar 13, 2017

The other day I was at a friend’s birthday party when one of my blog follower friends reminded me that I had yet to finish my Paris blogs from my trip. It has been over 3 years now so I do hope I can capture the experience. Now is as good a time as any since I will be heading back to Europe in 3 months so I had better finish off the last trip before I get to the next one. Here goes… Day 3 A friend of mine who I met in Lisbon (Laurent if you remember) and who I had met on day 1 for snails and a wonderful tour around Sacre-Coeurs, drew me a map that would allow me to hit all of the major hot spots in 1 day walking. It is with this map that I set out to start day 3. I woke up early enough to catch the end of the continental breakfast at my Paris Hostel and grabbed the metro to the stop nearest Notre Dame.   Paris Walking Tour: Notre Dame Notre Dame sat just on the other side of a small bridge and seemed to stand out even though it was surrounded by other buildings. From afar, the architecture and shape of the building strikes you as quite unique, and as you get closer the details of the sculptures and windows are what take over. Out front there are hundreds of pigeons awaiting bread crumbs to be released from the hands of children and ‘bird men’ selling said crumbs for photo ops. I stood outside for quite a while admiring all of the little carved people and crevices and the stone design overtop of the main circular window – imagine how much of a feat that must have been back when it was built. I also couldn’t help but rememb the Disney version of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and imagining him hobbling through the towers, wishing I could see him peak out a window. The line was not too long (probably because it was a dreary day for a walking tour and sight-seeing) so I strolled inside the landmark to see if the inside was as intriguing as the outside. The thing I found with Notre Dame is that, on a whole, it seems like a dark church that is no more exciting than other churches I have seen. However, as you begin to look at the details and in the small nooks the beauty really begins to surface. There were a number of small prayer areas as well as the main area, which was still a functioning church....

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My Good friend Laurent made this simple and wonderful Paris Walking Map for me when I was last in Paris. I had 1 day and I wanted to see it all. This map hit all of the major Parisian landmarks and I left feeling like I had a good idea of what to go back for. The areas it hits are: Notre Dame Place Dauphine Point Neuf (oldest bridge in Paris) The Lock Bridge Louvre Tuilleries Garden Grand Palaise (the Grand Palace) Trocadero Garden (best view of the Eiffel Tower) Eiffel Tower Famous Arcade Bridge Arc de Triomphe Champs Elysees (famous high-end shopping street) Areas you can detour to (with 2 days): Musee d’Orsay (D’Orsay Museum – you can make a quick detour) Laduree (famous macarons) Le Madeleine (roman catholic church) Place Vandome (most expensive jewellery stores in Paris) Rue Saint Anne (best places to eat) This map is a LOT of walking so make sure to wear comfortable shoes – and also walk with Haste. If you have 2-3 days this map is also great because you can take your time and stop in at each place and really enjoy where you are. I just wanted to share it for anyone looking for the Coles Notes of Paris. 🙂  ...

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Hello world travellers and those interesting in conserving this beautiful place we call earth (and all of it’s amazing creatures), Here is a short message from the organizers of #worldelephantday:   August 12 is World Elephant Day! We created this special day to raise awareness of the worsening plight of Asian and African elephants. Poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict are just some of the issues threatening the worlds elephants. World Elephant Day aims to raise awareness of these issues and encourage the global community to work together to support the conservation of these magnificent creatures.   This year to celebrate World Elephant Day, we are raising awareness for elephants through #Eleedraw, a coloring challenge that encourages people of all ages to grab their pencil crayons, color our elephant drawing, and share it on social media with the hashtag #Eleedraw. Here are some ideas how you can celebrate: Download the #Eleedraw from our website, color, and share on social media with the hashtag #Eleedraw Sign the pledge on the World Elephant Day website to support a world that protects elephants, wildlife, and their habitat   Host your own World Elephant Day and watch When Elephants Were Young, a feature film about the plight of Asian elephants thats being released on World Elephant Day. Share your favorite elephant stories, photos, videos, and books with us on Facebook Post a photo of yourself holding the reasons you love elephants and share it on social media with the hashtag #Worldelephantday Write a blog post about elephants and share it on your website or on World Elephant Days Facebook Donate to the World Elephant Society to help raise funds for their latest project SAET, Safe Asia Elephant Tourism.   Help bring the world together to save elephants. For more information on World Elephant Day and how you can help visit:...

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How to Celebrate World Elephant Day with Travelphotolenes   Hello travel enthusiasts and those people interested in preserving this beautiful place we call earth! I have a very important message to you from the organizers of #worldelephantday. August 12 is World Elephant Day! We created this special day to raise awareness of the worsening plight of Asian and African elephants. Poaching, habitat loss and human-elephant conflict are just some of the issues threatening the world’s elephants. World Elephant Day aims to raise awareness of these issues and encourage the global community to work together to support the conservation of these magnificent creatures. This year to celebrate World Elephant Day, we are raising awareness for elephants through #Eleedraw, a coloring challenge that encourages people of all ages to grab their pencil crayons, color our elephant drawing, and share it on social media with the hashtag #Eleedraw. Here are some ideas how you can celebrate: Download the #Eleedraw from our website, color, and share on social media with the hashtag #Eleedraw Sign the pledge on the World Elephant Day website to support a world that protects elephants, wildlife, and their habitat Host your own World Elephant Day and watch When Elephants Were Young, a feature film about the plight of Asian elephants that’s being released on World Elephant Day. Share your favorite elephant stories, photos, videos, and books with us on Facebook Post a photo of yourself holding the reasons you love elephants and share it on social media with the hashtag #Worldelephantday Write a blog post about elephants and share it on your website or on World Elephant Day’s Facebook Donate to the World Elephant Society to help raise funds for their latest project SAET, Safe Asia Elephant Tourism. Help bring the world together to save elephants. For more information on World Elephant Day and how you can help...

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I headed down to vegas 2 weeks ago and spend most of my time in nature. The scenery there is beautiful if you can pull yourself away from the strip (which I had no problem doing) and nothing like I have ever seen.   I rented a car and drove to Valley of Fire where I was extremely swept away and impressed. I knew I had to see more. The next day I headed to Red Rock Canyon. I had googled it a bit before hand and found a local photographer who was open to doing a TFP shoot for a sweet Canadian girl like me (ok… I don’t know if thats what he thought… but I’m going with it). I organized for us to meet there and I brought two of my favourite dresses (one being my birthday dress I was dying to wear again).   These are the images that came out of it 🙂 A simple 45 minute shoot (including changing in the car and going barefoot on some sharp rocks!).   Enjoy 🙂   Photographer: Nicholas Foote  Model: Sarah Kirkpatrick Location: Red Rock Canyon, Las Vegas,...

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Aerospace photoshoot

Aerospace photoshoot


Posted By on Oct 26, 2015

I recently did a photoshoot with the very talented Sam Unterman of Iconic Images in the Aerospace Museum in Calgary, AB, Canada. It was so much fun and I came out of it looking and feeling like a babe! That said, it is hard not to look like a total badass when your props for the day are airplanes and jets. Maybe one day I will be getting into one of these because I own it. Until then, I will be visiting an admiring these beasts up close at the museum.   I hope you get a kick out of them 🙂 If you like what you see pop on over to my modeling page on facebook....

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I wanted to write a post about something that was extremely near and dear to my heart. Elephants have always been my favourite animal. I love their ability to be so powerful and, yet, have the ability to be so gentle. They grieve their friends and family for 7 days and even burry their dead with twigs and branches (see a great story about mourning here – Elephants > human). They are so much more than their tusks and also so much more than a tourist piggy back ride. These majestic and wonderful creates are most certainly one of those creatures whose extinction would rattle the world, whose presence would be missed, and whose value would only later be appreciated. But that does not have to happen if we all take a pledge to do what we can to protect them. Once you do so you will receive some badges to share at will (and will you shall) to spread the word and raise awareness. But until then, you can use mine 🙂   7 ways to help elephants: 1) Sign petitions to save their lives (change.org has many) 2) Boycott organizations who use elephants for profit (circus’, wildlife parks, zoos). Instead visit sanctuaries and places where they are treated fairly and are free to roam and live their lives. 3) Use social media. Keep your eyes out for elephant organizations that need support or stories that need awareness and do your part in sharing the story. #worldelephantday #every15minutes #savetheelephants 4) Do not buy anything with ivory. Whether it is new or old, the purchasing of ivory effects everyone negatively. New ivory enables poaching directly, and old ivory shows that you support the trade (like furs) and encourages the ‘fad’. 5) Buy elephant friendly goods. Coffee and wood can be extremely damaging to elephant habitats. Do your research and purchase goods that do not directly effect these wonderful landscapes and creatures. 6) Donate. Support conservation efforts in any way you are able to. There are a bunch of worthy causes out there that are doing their part to help elephants directly. International Elephant Foundation  Elephant Care International The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust African Wildlife Foundation Amboseli Elephant Research Project 7) Adopt an elephant. Every year for Christmas I ask that a donation be made to the WWF to adopt an elephant. In return I get an adorable stuffy and some stickers (though I also wish that they would save those and put the money towards the animals). Bonus: Better yet.  Volunteer! There are a few elephant orphanages and sanctuaries who need help.  I’m currently raising money so I can do just...

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This blog is dripping with sexism… but if you have ever been to Las Vegas, Nevada you will understand why, and as a girl… it works out GREAT for you.   Going to Vegas for the first time is a pretty stimulating and exciting experience. There is so much to do for so many people and the possibilities are endless. That said, these experiences are worlds apart depending on if you are a girl or a boy, and whose budges vary greatly. So, this blog is specific to girls who are interested in the pool parties and the nightlife, and who want to get the most… for virtually free. The tips expressed in this blog are from my own experiences through trial and error over 6 different trips, and whose methods I have perfected. This, my friends, is how I experienced Vegas with a $500 budget including hotel and flight without missing a thing.   How to do Vegas: Tricks from the thrifty traveler: #Vegas. Take a picture of your suitcase and post it on Instagram. #lasvegas, #vegas, #vegasbaby are all attention grabbers for club promoters. They will like your photo. I recommend the ones with specifics as they likely work for that club and are immensely less sketchy (I like XS and Light for nightclubs and Daylight, Encore Beach Club, and Wet Republic for pool parties – see what DJ’s are playing. I just saw Avicii and David Guetta. Sweet).  These club promoters will have contact info in their description. Text them and ask them for a guest list for you and # of friends – this will get you no line or cover and many come with drink tickets (hello free day/night!). Exchange your money at a bank. This may seem obvious but the day before my trip I was told that going to one of the money exchange kiosks at the airport was the same price as going to a bank… it was not! I handed in $208 and got $150 back with an exchange rate (Canadian) of .78 cents… with a $9 transaction fee. When you get off the plane, look at the people waiting in departures. This will be you in 3 days. This isn’t as much a tip as a little fun thing to do. Most people have burned noses, half are asleep in the chairs, and the holes in some people’s pockets are as deep as the Hoover Dam. I just always find it entertaining to compare the people getting off the plane (glammed up, make-up, curled hair, suits) with those waiting to get back on (no sparkles to be found, no...

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Paris, France (part 1)

Paris, France (part 1)


Posted By on Feb 6, 2015

(Paris will be broken into 3 blogs. As riveting as my blogs are I am not sure I can hold your attention for 7 days worth as it would be even more of a novel than Lisbon. Enjoy! 😀 )   Transportation at it’s Finest I got into Paris  in the early evening. The terminal was HUGE and I had zero idea where I was headed. I walked back and forth down the hallways scrambling to remember what tiny bit of french I could from my mandatory elementary classes… Needless to say the only word I recognized was ‘Welcome’. Welcome to what?! To the largest most confusing train station ever!? Ok. Think Sarah. What one thing has been consistent in every language that always gets you where you need to go… The beloved ‘Metro’. I stopped into an information booth and asked how to get there. The people at the booth knew surprisingly little English for people working at an information booth at an international train station… but Metro was a word they recognized. I made my way down 4 levels consisting of escalators and stairs and about 15 liters of sweat on my back (from the fever or the weight I was not sure). I eventually made it to the metro and opted for a train pass for a full week. I was only planning to be there for 5 days but day 6 I would need to take the metro back to the train so I figured it was probably still worth the savings (though I had no intention of actually calculating it at this point). I went to the kiosk because I was too tired to figure out a new machine in a new language. I got my ticket with ease and struggled through the gate whose entrance was narrower than my bags were wide. I was extremely surprised to see how chaotic and yet organized the metro map was. I had only just begun and I already knew my way around. Paris had by far the best transit system I had ever ridden. I hopped from 1 train to the next and got off at my stop (which unfortunately was a huge traffic circle that I chose the wrong exit for). I was nearly dragging my bags behind me when I made it to my hostel. Phew! It was nice and modern and conveniently located (although not right in tourist town) and it had a bed, which is all I cared about.   French Cuisine and English Friends I checked in and brought all my bags upstairs. I let out a huge sigh as I...

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Lisbon, Portugal

Lisbon, Portugal


Posted By on Oct 16, 2014

I managed to pull myself out of the bed when the conductor called. I collected my things and found myself in the train station. I had to take 2 metros to get to my hostel but it was pretty straight forward and only a few stops.   Sunset Destination Hostels When I arrived at my hostel I found that it was directly above one of the train stations. Literally on the floors above the foyer. It was strange and I could hear the announcements from the station below but it wasn’t overly bothersome. I was feeling pretty shitty and had really hoped my bed was not used the night before so I could check in right away (even though it was only 8am). Unfortunately, this was not the case. I put my stuff in the luggage room and then laid on the couch in the common room for a good long while. I checked my messages, explored the hostel a little bit, played games on my phone, and just people watched while I let the time pass. Around 1:30 (half an hour before check in) i went down stairs to the station to grab some food. There was not a whole lot to choose from but I got a smoked salmon baguette and sat on a bench to eat it. It was pretty terrible but I figured I should eat, even though I was not hungry. When the clock struck two I went back upstairs to check in. My room was pretty big. A 4 bedroom and the bathroom was only next door so I was pretty happy with the set up. Unfortunately I was on the top bunk again but, so is the life of dorms. I really did not feel like doing much so I put my stuff in the large locking draws under the bed (a great feature) and then laid down to waste the day away. I watched some episodes of Millionaire Matchmaker, listened to music, avoided writing the San Sebastian blog, and overall just killed time and rested. I was content. I ventured out to find dinner and opted for one of the super touristy places with 100 chairs outside. I got a Paella and it was awful. I returned to bed unsatisfied and feeling a little bit sick.     DAY 1 Getting My Tourist On The next morning I decided to be extra productive. I was too weak to walk around and explore the town but I did not want to miss anything since I had heard from multiple people that portugal was amazing. I opted for the all-too-touristy double decker hop-on/hop-off...

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San Sebastian, Spain

San Sebastian, Spain


Posted By on Sep 7, 2014

San Sebastion is the kind of place you throw into your trip to rest – and it is perfect for exactly that. After a long 7 hour train ride mostly consumed by stomach rumbles and photo editing, I landed in San Sebastian. When I exited the train station I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful and clean the town was. The architecture was older but up-kept and a river ran through the town, brightening the whole place up.   Hostel Surfing Etxea The street numbers here were not quite like those at home. First of all, the street names were usually on plaques on the wall. I really don’t know how cars see them. Then the numbers seemed to jump. Sometimes only apartment doors have them and store fronts don’t… So you can pass number 12, go 8 doors down, and then find number 14. When I was looking for my hostel there was a number 33 and 35. My hostel was 34. The other problem was that across the street (where you would expect to find the even numbers) was a park. I called the hostel and the man couldn’t understand how I was lost. He said I was on the right street and just to find #34. I walked up the street another 2 blocks before I found it. You see, at home the numbers are across from each other. Here 34 was across for 48 (or whatever it was). When I buzzed up I waited another 5 minutes for the guy to come down to get me. When he eventually made it he handed me a map and told me I was at their other location a few blocks away. Why he couldn’t have told me this when I called the first time was beyond me. When I found the next hostel I was very tired, my backpack was heavy, and my stomach was now making an audible rumble. Inside it was very modern and clean. It was like a small apartment filled with very friendly ‘roommates’. There were 2 rooms with 4 and 5 beds and the common areas were just like you would see at home. It was a relief to finally be in a modern building. I dropped my bags and decided to head out to find food. As I was leaving one girl said she was going to hop into the shower and then come and chat. I found this strange because people in hostels don’t usually treat you like a friend this early on. For the most part you just drop your bags and head out on your own. I was...

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Madrid, Spain

Madrid, Spain


Posted By on Aug 21, 2014

Walk to station, buy ticket, wait for train, get on train. The usual.   Friends from the Get Go When I got on the train 2 guys sat down in the seats across from me. They were my age and both very cute. I figured I’d start a conversation given that we were on a train to the same destination. They were ‘Murican, born in Chicago – brothers. The older brother, Zach, was actually a writer and had been traveling for a year while he finished a novel. The younger one, Grant, was going to school in Texas and was just in Europe for a short trip to visit his nomad brother. We did not talk a whole lot on the train since we all had writing to be doing (book editing, social media posts, and travel blogging) but we did talk enough to opt to continue the conversation post-train. When we got to Madrid we were catching the same metro as well. Turns out their hostel was only 3 stops (or a 20 minute walk) from mine. We exchanged Facebook names and agreed to meet up later.   MuchoMadrid Hostel My hostel was only half a block from the Santo Domingo metro station, which was extremely convenient. I walked in to a beautiful business-looking building and checked the room map on the wall. MuchoMadrid was on the the 7th floor. I took a very fancy elevator up to a very fancy landing and knocked on a not as fancy door. A nice lady not much older than me welcomed me and checked me in. I was in a room with 4 single beds (no bunks) that was very spacious and had 2 lockers available for each. I dropped all my stuff, settled in, added the boys on Facebook, and decided a nap was in order. I was napping for maybe half an hour when I got a ‘ping’ on my phone. Grant was asking what was up. I had wanted to nap a little longer but I was also famished and asked if he wanted to grab a bite. Cheers to not eating alone! I thought both brothers would be coming to eat but when I got off the train at their stop (where we were meeting) only Grant was there. I guess Zach was having a nap. Lucky B*. No matter. Grant seemed like a nice guy. Grant and I walked just around the corner and found a place that served burritos and fajitas for only 4 euros. Done. I got a vegetarian burrito and a water for only 6 euros. I liked Madrid already. We talked...

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Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain


Posted By on Aug 20, 2014

Maps and I are not friends. I got off the train in barcelona and found my way to the metro. I am getting better with the train -> metro task but I still am not great at maps. I usually ‘google maps’ how to get to my hostels from the last metro stop and then screen shot it (since I don’t have data). However, the problem with a picture is it does not tell you if you are going the wrong way. I came out of the metro station and looked at the street name. I was on a giant street that seemed to match the map (the street signs are really not as easy to find as they are at home). The other problem with screen shots is you have to a lot since you have to zoom in so far to see street names as well as zoom out for the general area. So I am flipping through 100 screen shots trying to figure out which way to go. There is a metro exit on both sides of the street and no major intersections on either side of me. I wing it. I winged wrong. I walked for about 20 minutes and did not see the street I was supposed to be on (nor the hospital visible in the map). I put my bag down on the curb and let myself wimper for a few minutes before heading back. 20 minutes back and 15 minute on the other side. I found the street. From there I walked only 2 blocks past my hostel before realizing I had passed it (it was a tiny door), turned around, and, eventually, checked in.   Pere Terres Youth Hostel When I checked in they told me I would be in one room for the first night and then another for the rest. Sort of inconvenient but I never really unpack anyway. I go up to my first room and find my bed. Top bunk. Lame. Oh well. I hoist my giant backpack up onto the bed (since my locker had a shelf right in the middle, making it impossible for my bag to fit) and went downstairs for wifi and to work on my Geneva Blog. There were a lot of people down there (as per usual when the wifi is only in the lobby) but I managed to find a spot at a table with one other person. I decided now was as good a time as ever to introduce myself to a new person. His name was Ben and he was from Sweden. He was only here for one...

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Geneva, Switzerland

Geneva, Switzerland


Posted By on Aug 16, 2014

I walked the wrong way to my hostel for about 20 minutes before figuring out that the lake was supposed to be on my right. So, after about an hour, I found my hostel.   Geneva Youth Hostel It was a large hotel-like hostel with a giant lobby and tons of kids on their computers and phones (the only place that got wifi). I got the keys and sheets to my room and headed up. I put all my stuff on the bed and then went to put my bag in the locker before exploring. Turns out… someones stuff was already in the locker. Not to self and others: Check locker before you unload everything onto the bed. I went down to the lobby and got it sorted out – Moved 2 beds down. It was a 6 bed female dorm. It was late so I just spent a little bit of time on the computer before going to sleep. I got up the next morning and had the continental breakfast. I was a bit late waking up so I had to go down in my pajamas. Oh well. The breakfast was delicious. Two kinds of yogurt, toast with Four kinds of jam, cereal, granola, apples, and the option of juice, coffee, and hot chocolate (all if you preferred). I ate, showered, got ready, and headed out for the day.   United Nations I was really looking forward to the United Nations. I asked the front desk how to get there and it was just a simple 10 minute tram ride. I walked up to the main street (that I had been so lost on before) and found it. Number 15 to ‘Nations’. When I got off I took a few pictures of the 3-legged chair and then headed over to the entrance. Well… it was what I thought to be the entrance… apparently only if you are a diplomat or show up in a shiny town car… I was directed to walk up around the block to the other side – only about a 5 minute speed-walk though. A little confusing at first. When I got there there was a bit of a line. Not too bad in comparison to some of the other sights I have been to on this trip. I waited about an hour and then went through security. We got our very own printed plastic identity cards with pictures. Fancy. But it stretches your photo and I look about 300 lbs… crap. Or maybe I have just eaten too many chocolate croissants on this trip? Inside we waited for our English tour in a...

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I took a 30 euro taxi to my Airbnb where they were waiting up for me. I was scheduled to get in 4 hours earlier but because the first 2 trains I had wanted were full and then I skipped that train in Genoa, I was quite late. I couldn’t let them know, however, because there was no wifi and my phone and computer were both dead. They were not mad though. Tania (the wife) offered me some dinner and showed me my room. It was a very small apartment. You walked in the front door to a small room (where my bed was on the floor). To the right was a bathroom and to the left was a door to a larger bachelor style room with the kitchen and their bed. Although not the Sheraton, it was very comfortable and felt quite homey. They gave me the wifi password and I dabbled a bit on the interwebs before going to sleep.   Nice to Monte Carlo We had arranged (the Canadian girls and I) to meet at the train station at 11am. I left the airbnb place around 10 just to be sure I would not be late for my new friends. I got there in half an hour, as expected. To kill time I went to the market and picked up some yogurt (well… I got Yop since I did not have a spoon but they only came in packages of 6), Babybelle cheese, and a banana. I went and stood by the front doors of the station to wait for them and ate my banana and yogurt. I was full after one. When the girls got there I shared my snacks and we boarded the train to Monte Carlo. Oh, I forgot to mention that we decided to all dress up (or at least get as dressed up as you could get when backpacking). I was wearing my new pink shirt with a black collar, and shorts, but I had my new fancy dress in my purse. The girls both came in cute sun dresses. We were clearly ready for the rich city. On the train we met a very nice Irish family. They were a little bit hard to understand but chatting with them made the time fly. We talked about meeting some rich bachelors in Monte Carlo and that I want to visit Ireland so I can experience ‘Ps: I love you’ for my own. The girl informed me that few Irish men are actually as portrayed in that movie. Heartbroken. But I guess that would be like assuming every American was like Channing...

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Liebster Award

Liebster Award


Posted By on Aug 12, 2014

Thanks ‘Travel and Get Lost‘ for the nomination.  I really appreciate it! This is a great program to get the travel information and inspiration flowing through those that are trying to get started. So although it is not a true award, it feels pretty great to know that fellow bloggers are keeping up with your stuff and consider you worthy of recognition.   Here are the 10 questions asked of me: 1. What is the best thing you have ever done during one of your travels? The best thing I have ever done is a toss up between new luxury and old luxury (though I do rather enjoy roughing it). When you travel the world it is hard to narrow it down to the ‘best’ places or things but my top two would be (1) spending a day on a yacht with some new friends in Monte Carlo, and (2) spending a night in a Scottish castle with my family. The yacht was completely by surprise (and explained in detail in my ‘Nice/Monte Carlo’ blog). It was the most luxurious 30 hours I have ever had in my life and was a welcome break from the less luxurious world of backpacking. The castle was planned. My whole family did a road trip through Scotland and one of our stops was a B&B inside an old castle. I was pretty sure it was haunted but the whole experience was perfect. Being with my family, spending time with their resident donkeys, sleeping in rooms that looked original, and wandering corridors looking at paintings whose eyes followed you. I would recommend this experience to anyone visiting Scotland.   2. What is your favorite food experience when travelling? My favourite food experience was in Rome, Italy. My friend and I were on our way to the Vatican and had decided to stop at a small shop. We looked over the menu and nothing jumped. Then the man beside us was brought the best looking pizza and pasta we had every seen. Turns out he was the owner and it was his ‘special’. We got the same. I can’t tell you what was so great about it but the whole ‘off the menu’ thing just made it stand out.   3. What is your best advice for jet lag? Stay awake? Honestly. I am pretty effected by Jet lag so the best thing you can do is try to stay up until the evening and then go to sleep for a full nights rest. There is also a homeopath that my mom gave me called ‘jet lag’. I have yet to try it but...

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Milan, Italy

Milan, Italy


Posted By on Aug 10, 2014

It was a quick train ride to Milan. From Milan Central station I had to catch the green like to Gorgonzola. I asked a few people and, with the help of a team of people who each knew a few different words of English, I was on my way.   Airbnb Pleasantries When I got off the train I called Matteo, the man at whose house I was staying. He had said that he would pick me up upon arrival. His home was a beautiful loft in an industrial building and he had a lovely little dog named Kunu. After giving me time to smother the dog with hugs and kisses Matteo showed me to my room. It was nice and large with a single bed and doors to a balcony. Matteo set me up with wifi and told me I could use his bike to go back to the train station – I did. I got a little bit lost on the bike but eventually found my way. I am so glad and thankful that he allowed me to use his bike. It was a good 10 minute ride and I was cruising! I locked the bike up at the station and took the 40 minute train ride back into the city.   Day 1: Shopping in Milan I did not really have an itinerary for the day but was eager to look around. After some googling I learned that the original ‘Freddy’ store was in Milan and not far from the station. I headed that way. I asked directions only once (a new record) and found the street. It was very obviously a shopping street but not the most expensive one in the city. I saw the Freddy store kiddy corner down the road and headed in. There were so many kinds and colours I was overwhelmed. Thankfully a very nice lady with decent English explained the differences to me and I picked out a few colours. After squeezing in to some – yes squeezing… these pants are tight! – I decided that I liked the jean ones and a dark grey pair that were on sale. They were pretty expensive but they were comfortable and looked great. Most of my jeans are around $20 but these ones were… well… more. I decided to splurge. I headed out onto the street now in the shopping mood (uh oh is right). I found a store that seemed similar to H&M but had some nice new trendy clothes. I am not a big fashion person but decided that since I was in Milan I would get something that was...

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Venice, Italy

Venice, Italy


Posted By on Aug 9, 2014

We arrived in Venice, Italy at our favourite time to arrive in new cities, dinner time. It is the perfect time because you can drop your bags, stroll leisurely around, take in the beauty without an agenda, eat, and get a good nights rest.   Airbnb – home Jess had screen-shot the directions from the train station to our Airbnb home. We started off on the right foot, we think, but then could not find the streets for the life of us. Asking more than a few locals, who also didn’t seem to know where we were headed, we eventually found our way. The lady was not home when we arrived so we sat on her doorstep for a little while. A guy our age walked up to us and started to chat. He was a nice guy named Glen and he kept us company while we waited. About 20 minutes later the home-owners friend arrived to let us in. We exchanged facebook names with Glen and went inside. There was a puppy inside!!! She was adorable. Her name was Havana and we spent a good chunk of time petting her. She was in the ladies room but there was a hole cut in the door just big enough for her head maybe? We were pleased. We dropped our bags in our very large room, unpacked in the most modern bathroom we had seen thus far, and went out to explore Venice.   Venice by evening I regret to inform you that the food in Venice is pretty terrible. I mean. I am sure there are some good spots if you know them, or at the expensive hotels, but the patios and restaurants along the canal by the Rialto bridge are some to be avoided. Soggy pizza, bland pasta, and fishy salmon are why we would not be going back there the rest of the stay. We climbed the steps of the Rialto and I snapped a few photos of what I thought was probably the third most beautiful city of the entire trip (only falling behind Cinque Terre and Positano) – but in a completely different way! The gondolas may be touristy and overpriced (80 euros to be exact. Which is why we just admired from afar) but they sure brought something wonderful to the scenery, All of the shops were now closing and it was getting dark. We headed back to our hostel to rest and chat with our loved ones.   Airbnb adventure Our host had just come home and introduced herself. She was a very nice lady. She had moved to Venice to be with...

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Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy


Posted By on Aug 4, 2014

(See Gallery Photos of Cinque Terre from my trip.) Where did I leave off… Oh right… How could I forget… Hostel – Da Luciano When we arrived at our hostel it was closed. The office had closed at 8pm but we had let them know in advance that we would be late. The email we got back had just said that after 11pm there is a 50 euro fee – we had rushed for this reason. The only way to get ahold of them was to call, so, after a few failed attempts at calling a european number for the first time, we got ahold of the man. He had asked where we were, “in front of the building”, and told us to wait there. 10 minutes passed, 20, 30, 45… Still no sign of him. Where did this guy live? Calgary? So we called again. This is how the conversation went: “Where are you?” “Still in front of the building… where you told us to wait”. “It is late” “Yes, we had emailed you giving our arrival time, which was 45 minutes ago” “It is late” “yes we know. How much longer do you think you will be?” “it is late” “Yes, well we called 45 minutes ago and have been waiting, so it is getting later” “50 euros extra” “no, our email says 50 euros for after 11:00pm check in” “no” “ok. well… how long do you think you will be to let us in” “10 minutes”. Had he even left at all the first time? Or was it some kind of punishment. 25 minutes later he showed up. He let us into reception and asked for the 50 euros. Jess pulled up the email that clearly stated “After 11pm is 50 euros” as the response to our email stating we would be in by 1030 (the soonest we could get there after our wine tour and the travel time). He still demanded the 50 euros! “Sir, this email states that 50 euros is for after 11pm. We got here and called you by 10:30”. He still wanted it. Jess got her business face on, which is super impressive by the way, and convinced him he was wrong. Finally he started to lead us to our room. We were disappointed to see we were not in the building where reception was, especially because that was the only place to access wifi, but were happy to be getting a room since we had now been here for an hour and a half. Up one flight of stairs. “phew”. Up a second flight of stairs, these needing a 90 degree angle...

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Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy


Posted By on Jul 31, 2014

We got into Florence in the early afternoon. It was all very smooth and we found our hostel really quickly.   Hostel Nella I would highly recommend this hostel to anyone traveling through Florence. It is a 7 minute walk to and from the train and also 5 minutes to the Duomo. When we arrived the lady led us to our room to drop our bags. It was a private room and a private bathroom and it was adorable. It had butterfly decals above the headboard and was very inviting. It also had a fan and air conditioning INCLUDED so we were pretty happy about that. We then met her in the office to sign in and she gave us a map of florence that she highlighted with the best path to hit all the hot spots, as well as marked down some of the best restaurants and other ‘off the beaten track’ attractions. It came in VERY useful later on. Although they did not have breakfast included they had free coffee and tea as well as free croissants every morning. Pretty perfect.   The Statue of David Since we had gotten in so early we decided to get a head start on the city. We beelined straight for Accademia Belle(?) Arti to feast our eyes on the Statue of David. It was raining so the line was not too bad but still lasted about 1 hour – And it was worth every moment. After walking through the start the museum pretending we were interested, but really just wondering where David was hiding, we finally found him. Standing tall in all his glory with every inch of his body meticulously crafted was the most beautiful statue I had ever seen (and we have seen a lot so far this trip). From the veins in his hands and the curls in his hair (all of it) right down to the detail of his calf muscles and toes, David was ‘statuesque’. We basked in his radiance before strolling off to look through one more room full of heads and smaller statues. We maybe should have done this one first because all of them failed in comparison – but were still interesting to see.   S. Maria Del Fiore (Duomo) After the museum we pulled out our handy ‘Hostel Nella’ map and found our way to the highlighted path, bringing us to the Duomo. When we turned the corner we were absolutely blown away. The exterior walls of this building were colourful, detailed, and immaculately ornate. It loomed over us like a mountain and the dome shone in the sunlight. It really...

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Amalfi Coast, Italy

Amalfi Coast, Italy


Posted By on Jul 26, 2014

I feel like the Amalfi Coast, Italy, consisted of trains and some time in between… so not a lot happened that wasn’t just ‘getting there’. I guess that’s the downside of having a ‘home-base’ that requires travel to each place.   Transportation – Rome to Sorrento (Meta) Our very first train ride using our Eurail pass’ was a success. Train station When we got to the station in Rome we had to get our pass’ verified. This meant waiting in line for an hour to talk to a customer service representative but all in all it was smooth. Our train required a reservation (10 euros not included in our pass) so we went to one of the machines to book. The home screen of the machine said “Watch for pick-pockets. Only take advice from train employees”. We thought this was strange until 3 or 4 people came up to us offering to help with the booking. One girl was pretty well dressed and spoke great english. She pointed at the screen telling us what to do next. We thanked her but waved her away. The next people looked a little worse for wear. One had very few teeth and they were all badly dressed. They anxiously pointed at our screen saying “continue, continue” (as if we didn’t know how to move to the next screen). We waved them off as well, holding our bags close. Train Finally we got our tickets and boarded the train. It was a short ride over to Napoli (Naples) where we switched to the Circumvensia train (Like a bumpy city train or metro) and took that to Sorrento. This is where the problems began. Turns out that our ‘Sorrento’ hostel was actually in Meta. 2 stops away. The next train was not going to be for another hour to go back from where we had just come, so we were instructed to take the bus. We wandered down to the bus stop and hopped on. Unsure of exactly where to go I showed the bus driver the address of our hostel. He nodded. I asked him if he would motion for us to get off when we hit the stop closest to that address. He said “si, si”. Excellent. We sat down. Bus The bus ride was a long one. Winding back and forth down narrow roadways and the bus driver hitting the breaks every 30 seconds in nauseating jolts… we were hoping our stop was soon. Eventually he pulled into the parking lot of the Meta beach and turned the bus off. Yes… off. This did not look like a road to our...

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Rome, Italy

Rome, Italy


Posted By on Jul 23, 2014

Where to start. Rome was a whirlwind with nearly every minute filled. It would likely take me 2 days to fully write about what we did in 2 days, so I will do the highlights. We arrived in rome via airplane at 1:30am. Apparently the bus and strain services stop at midnight so we were forced to take a taxi, a 50 euro taxi. When we arrived at our bed and breakfast by 2:30am, Trinity B&B, the lady was not happy with us. After a long-winded lecture we were let into our room. It was lovely. Much more than we had expected for 25 euros. It was the cheapest option for ‘private room’ (which Jess and I have decided to aim for whenever possible) and it was probably better than any of the others on there! It had a large queen bed (but we didn’t mind sharing) and 13 foot ceilings with a table and chairs for breakfast. It also had a private bathroom, which is apparently a luxury in hostels and the like. We were very pleased. We crashed pretty hard and woke up by 8:30 to start the adventure. Rome itinerary – Day 1 Colosseum Palatine Hill Roman Forum Trevi Fountain Pantheon Spanish steps – Evening Colosseum We walked the 1.2km from our B&B to the Colosseum entrance. The line was huge. We also heard that they would be closing the entrance for a little while because it was getting too crowded. We were then approached by one of the tour people and for 23 euros? we would get to skip the line and have a tour for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Roman Forum. It really ended up only being a few dollars more than if we had done it alone, and we decided our time (skipping the line) was worth it. We were going to wait for the next tour because the man told us that the one leaving had a really boring guide. However, since they were closing the entrance soon we man not be guaranteed to leave soon. We opted to go now. There was a group of about 15 people standing around a little old man with a fisherman’s hat and a speaker. He was adorable! He told us all about the earthquake that broke the exterior wall of the colosseum on the one side, the importance of the pillars, how the building used to look, all sorts of interesting facts. He was right in the middle of painting us a beautiful picture when some extremely rude man told him that he didn’t want to stand outside all day and insisted...

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Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece


Posted By on Jul 19, 2014

Ferry/Hotel We got off the ferry in Santorini, Greece to a mass of people, buses, shuttles, and shops. It was surprisingly busy for 1am. During our quest for a taxi (which apparently had all been reserved) we were found by a shuttle service that said they were going our way. Slightly skeptical,  we went over to his shuttle. It looked legit, so we got in. He said 10 euro each for the trip. Being new to bartering we both said ok. He walked away to find new people and another man came up to us holding a sign that said ‘Villa Aretousa Hotel’, the hotel we had booked. His shuttle was free and a service of the hotel. So we opted for that. The man was very nice and gave us a bit of a tour on the drive there,  even though it was very dark. We learned that the wine in Santorini is unique and famous because they do not water the grapes – They are only watered by rainfall, creating a unique flavour. We also learned that the bakery beside Villa Aretousa was 24 hours… yea… dangerous for our bellies. We pulled up in front of a traditional blue and white building and he helped us to our room. Because we were only there for one night and because it was so late he upgraded us to one of the suites, which was nice of him. We pretty much went right to sleep (after I posted the last blog) and enjoyed the air conditioning.   Parissa The next morning we went for a stroll through the town and explored the tempting bakery. Inside we found the most beautiful pastries and breads we had ever seen. Alll shape and sizes and all looked like they were made just for us. After eyeing a brownie for too long we decided breakfast was probably our best option. Wandering up and down the streets a bit we found a small patio that had a small breakfast menu. It was the only thing open at that time (apparently I’m an early riser in Greece) so we went in. The man did not speak much english. I ordered the English breakfast and Jess ordered the special omelette. Each came with coffee (the strongest coffee I had ever had, so I poured 3 sugars, 2 creams, and a packet of honey to sweeten it), a carbonated orange juice, and a water. Twenty minutes later our dishes came out. Mine came with a ‘sausage’ that Jess wanted but when it came… well… I guess ‘plane-old-hotdog’ is what passes as a sausage here. My eggs were...

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Athens, Greece

Athens, Greece


Posted By on Jul 17, 2014

Please also see the photos from Athens, Greece. Well, the adventure has begun. Jess and I landed in Athens, Greece last night at 6pm and I embarked on what I hope to be a life changing journey. From the start The Travel The road to this point, in terms of planning, was scarce. We just sort of decided to travel 2 months ago and, other than a text to a friend outlining where I want to visit (which turned into my Europe Itinerary blog) and a reservation at our first two hostels, we really just hopped a plane and headed out. Calgary had a decently long security line-up (For which I forgot my Nexus card, leaving me to wait with all the schmuks. haha. Kidding, I love you all. But seriously…). Jess met up with me just as we were boarding and I could tell this would be a ‘flying-by-the-seat-of-our-pants’ kind of trip, which is exactly what I was looking for. After a quick 3.5 hour jaunt over to Toronto we switched planes. We got a little bit turned around and had to ask for directions a few times but managed to find the tram that took us over to where we needed to be. We walked over the +15 to find a new security line that looked like it had just about everyone that lived in Toronto in it. It was daunting but at this point I knew it was only a microscopic portion of the trip as a whole and embraced it as part of our adventure. Here I applaud Toronto (which rarely happens) for being so great at dealing with crowds. The 20 switchback line flew by in about 45 minutes and soon enough we were sitting at our next gate. The flight from Toronto to Rome actually went by pretty fast. One other lady and I had the same isle seat listed on our ticket so the man switched me to a window, which i was pretty happy about. I managed to grab a few cat naps against the wall when the little italian grandma wasn’t chatting me up and soon enough it was dinner time. I had ordered a vegetarian meal that ended up being like an indian butter chicken but with tofu. When I was choosing the alternative meal options online there were about 70 kinds of diets but no regular ‘vegetarian’ option. There was kosher, eastern vegetarian, budist vegetarian, I-only-eat-peas vegetarian, rice-when-it’s-raining-and-flour-when-it’s-not vegetarian, I’m-just-scared-of-the-airplane-meat vegetarian, and so forth. I actually don’t know if ANY of those were options, aside from kosher, but I remember staring at a huge list and hoping for...

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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico


Posted By on Jun 23, 2014

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico can be a lot of things to a lot of people. Whether you are traveling in search of beaches and margaritas, culture and markets, or an adventure fit for a GoPro, you can find it in this coastal town. But where to start? I can tell you that everyone I have talked to has had a different experience here and what more could you ask for? In a city of only 255,725 people in an area only 1,300.7 km2 large, you may think that the experiences are limited, but, as mentioned, they are not. So, without further adieu, here are just a few things to look forward to, a few things to do, and a few things to watch out for in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.   (For some quick visuals to accompany the blog of ‘the best of Puerto Vallarta’ check out my photography portfolio for this trip: http://travelphotolenses.com/project/puerto-vallarta-mexico-culture/)   Hotels: Canto Del Sol Canto Del Sol is a pretty decent hotel in terms of amenities and cleanliness. It has a swim up bar in a great pool with a variety of hourly events put on by the staff. Never a dull moment. The food is also really great. There was always fresh fruit for snacking and the omelette bar was to die for (but always remember to bring a tip for the omelette lady, she can be your best friend for the whole stay). If the main restaurant was not open they always had a snack bar with pizza and beer – I mean cerveza – as well as nachos and a few other filler foods. It also had a nice volleyball court that we utilized many-a-time on which they had organized beach volleyball games. As for the negatives… the beach. I mean, what negative things can you say about a beach… other than merchants. This hotel’s ‘private’ beach was small enough for the merchants to lean over and try to sell you their wares. At first it is interesting to see everything for sale and your guilt gets the better of you. You spend a day listening to them try to sell cheap necklaces and you eventually buy 2 or 3 that you will never wear again, but then… it doesn’t stop. And this is the difference between Mexico and Cuba. In Cuba people are not allowed to sell on the tourist beaches (a peninsula littered with hotels in Varadero) and, although I do think it is sad that people do not have freedom in their own country, it is nice to have the break. But in Mexico it seems to be encouraged. After the first...

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Well, as many of you know, I am going to Europe! This is my ‘Travel Europe Itinerary in 2 months’ version 1 and I’d like your thoughts! I have taken some time to put together my idea of what a Europe trip could look like making my way around the Mediterranean Sea (and possibly taking a quick up-shoot to northern Europe). That being said, this is my first time going to Europe without family and planning a trip by myself! I will be traveling with a friend through Greece and Italy but then I am on my own. I’ve estimated the amount of time it will take to visit all of the places but have not noted the travel time between each (which are short trips within Greece and Italy but get long especially from Monaco to Amsterdam (possibly 22 hours).   I will post an updated itinerary after I start to narrow down my options but wanted to note my starting point. I will also post an ‘as recorded’ itinerary after Europe to show how it actually went (as well as obviously posting as I go).   If anyone has any suggestions, or attractions to add, or places to avoid, please comment below 🙂 I would greatly appreciate any contributions!     Travel Fly to Athens Ferry (9 hours) from Athens (Piraeus) to Santorini Catamaran (4 hours) Santorini to Athens (Piraeus) Train from Athens to Patras Ferry from Patras to Bori (22 hours overnight ferry ride)   Train to Naples (Pompei) Train to Rome (where we will visit the Vatican) Train to Florence Train to Pisa Train to Venice Train to Milan (jess likely leaves here) Train to Cinque Terre Train to Genoa   Train to Monaco   Train to Geneva   Train to San Sabastian Train to Madrid Train to Barcelona Train to Faro Train to Lisbon   Train to Paris (where I’ll visit Versailles)   Train to Amsterdam   Train to London to visit my best friend and her boyfriend who will just have moved there! Fly home     Eurail  Jess: Greece-italy pass for $469. It is only available for 2 months but has 10 days of traveling which we will need for the one month anyway. 4 countries, 10 days of traveling is $606 plus paying twice for me and will get me from italy to france and spain as well. There is also a Global Pass that is $893 that allows you to go anywhere in Europe with 15 travel days. The second Global Pass option is $1290 for a continuous 2 month pass for anywhere in Europe.   Hostels  hostelbookers.com is a...

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One of my friends just got her permanent residency in Canada (moving here from Australia… yea… I think she is crazy too). In order to be a ‘landed’ resident she has to leave and come back, around the flag pole as it were. We decided to make Montana our flag pole. Just a short 3 hours from Calgary we decided to hit the closest border straight down highway 2 for ease and to drive the famous ‘Going to The Sun Road’ – said to be the most beautiful drive in the USA. We soon found that the drive through southern Alberta was not nearly as bland as what wait on the other side of the border… well… minus one truly magnificent, beautiful, breathtaking, refreshing, inspirational place…   Glacier National park. But first… we had to find it. Obviously there were signs everywhere and the park is a whopping 1,349 km² of land in the state… but it is May… and the ‘Going to The Sun Road’ was still closed for winter so our journey took us to a smaller path called ‘Many Glacier Road’. At first we were disappointed that our plans fell through but upon crossing the park border all of our peeves were left behind. The long, winding, sometimes scary, road was one of the most beautiful I have seen, AND I LIVE NEAR BANFF. Around one corner was a shimmering lake, around another was a steep mountain range, and around the next we slowed down, stopped, and met Bridie (as we named her) the Mountain Goat. If getting up close and personal with a wild mountain goat was not cool enough, Bridie showed us a waterfall that we may not have otherwise seen. Upon pulling off to the side of the road to take pictures we heard running water. Just down the hill next to us was a beautiful waterfall coming down from what looked like a cottage and a huge mountain range in the background, hidden by trees. Picture perfect scene if I ever saw one (See portfolio for pictures – will be posted soon). After snapping pictures of every single inch of that scene we got back in the car and finished the last few KMs (or Miles if you want to be culturally immersed) past a stunning old hotel and then headed back. From there we ventured to our reserved hotel, the one we had googled before leaving and found to be the only one in the nearby area (30 miles) during the off-season.   Browning, MT Little did we know that the entire area was a native reserve and some of the...

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Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas, Nevada


Posted By on May 5, 2014

Las Vegas is always a whirlwind. Fly in Thursday evening and fly out Sunday afternoon – doesn’t leave much down time if you want to have ‘the Vegas experience’. So this is my account on how to do vegas.   We bounced around from one party to the next and didn’t end up paying for much at all – which is certainly a perk of being a young female in sin city. I won’t get into all the details (though don’t let your mind wander too much, we were pretty tame), but I will get into the best of the attractions. Now, these are the best of the attractions from the perspective of three 21-30 year old girls and may differ if you are going as a group with more people and, more importantly, with guys in your group. In my experience, Vegas is not kind to men without money. For example: Club/Pool Party Lineups. A group of girls buying bottle service at a table – 0 minutes. A group of guys buying bottle service at a table – 0 minutes. A group of girls on a guest list – 30 minutes max. A group of guys on a guest list – 1 hour minimum. A group of girls without a guest list – 30 minutes (as you will be pulled out of line and put in the guest list line anyway). A group of guys without a guest list – Well… let’s just say you better bring a snack and a comfortable pair of standing shoes with the understanding that you will only see the wee hours of the night life, or you might as well enjoy your night sans-club. And don’t bother pre-drinking… you will be sober by the time you start rubbing your legs the first on many times. So with that in mind… Here is our experience.   Dayclubs/pool parties are the best part of Vegas. I’ll admit the clubs are pretty stimulating with so much entertainment (which I will get to later) but there is nothing like awesome music, people dancing, and the sun shining on your scantily clothed body leaving you warm and tanned at the end of the day with a batch of new friends from your spontaneous game of water beach ball volleyball. The best of these are: Daylight @ Mandalay Bay (Best on Sundays. Friday was also fun) – Great set up with lots of room to party and breathe and swim. Wet Republic @ MGM (Great on Saturdays) Marquee (I’ve heard its great but have never been)   Nightclubs seem to be a big hit in Vegas. Now, I...

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Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Puerto Penasco, Mexico


Posted By on Mar 27, 2014

I regret to inform you that I forgot my Canon T2i at home. I do, however, have my phone so I have been trying to take pictures with that. There are so many photo opportunities in the small towns throughout Mexico that it was quite disheartening when I realized how limited I was when visiting Puerto Penasco. Today I saw an adorable fishing scene with 3 men in a boat, I even watched them pull in a catch. It would have been a lovely photo if I had my telephoto lens but, alas, I simply had to snap the picture with my memory for that one. I have managed to grab a few shots that I will upload in due time and I hope they capture at least the basis of what Puerto Penasco has to offer. From beautiful white sandy beaches to impoverished side streets and all that stands in between, it is a magnificent culture to observe.   I won’t lie. The stray dog aspect of the trip has been a difficult pill to swallow and if I had the choice and capacity I would already be 100 dogs richer. It is nice to see, though, that there are ads for adoption in restaurants and various shelters around town. That being said, I learned something I did not think about before… Euthanasia is expensive and the shelters are high-kill shelters… I won’t get into details… but next time I go down I’m bringing dog food and possibly a minivan to fill with strays.   Anyway… I like to support the locals whenever possible and the small taco stands we have hit are ideal. Whether or not my refried beans, cheese, and rice are authentic or just a way to appease the tourists is up for debate, but I love the experience overall. The boys were in love with a place called “Chuy”‘s. They loved the Carne Asada (cooked meet) tacos. I, however, loved “La Curva”, a larger sit down restaurant only 20 minutes from the condo. Their special is all I wanted from my Mexican adventure, which I’m sure you guessed was refriend beans, rice, guacamole, sour cream, and cheese enchiladas. Oh, and the chips to start – Drizzled in some heart-unhealthy cheese and sour cream; free with your meal – and forcing you to take most of your meal to go. Let me show you:         Yum.       Moving on, We continued on to renting quads (or 4-wheelers, whatever you want to call them) after letting the 26lbs. of food we inhaled digest. Driving through the town is a strange experience...

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Arizona

Arizona


Posted By on Mar 10, 2014

Being a Canadian dating an American does give rise to many ‘tourist’ opportunities. In the last 6 months I have had the privilege of being shown around beautiful Arizona by someone who was has lived there for only the last few years, therefore appreciating all of the little things, things that usually go unnoticed by hometowners. From Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, Phoenix to Tucson, and all of the barren deserts, breathtaking waterfalls, exhausting hills/mountains, and terrifying abandoned gas stations in between, I’ve experienced what Arizona has to offer. My photo account can be seen here: http://travelphotolenses.com/project/phoenixarea/ and here: http://travelphotolenses.com/project/grand-canyon/ But as I said before, I won’t rehash the past… so for now you will just have to wait until next week when I am back in Phoenix, venturing to Mexico, and then on a road trip up through Yellowstone National Park.   Stay...

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Introductions Please

Introductions Please


Posted By on Feb 19, 2014

At this point, being my first blog, I don’t want to go back and recap my past experiences. I may touch on them in future blogs and relate back to adventures I’ve had but I want my posts to be genuine. In order to do that I will only write as I go and record my accounts as I come about them.   So for now you will just know that I have been to the following places (in no particular order):   Europe: Athens, Greece Santorini, Greece   Naples, Italy Pompeii, Italy Capri, Italy Rome, Italy Florence, Italy Venice, Italy Milan, Italy Genoa, Italy   Geneva, Switzerland   Nice, France Paris, France   Monte Carlo, Monaco   San Sebastian, Spain Barcelona, Spain Madrid, Spain   Lisbon Portugal   London, England   Edinburgh, Scotland St. Andrews, Scotland Elgin, Scotland Glenroths, Scotland Inverness, Scotland   Frankfurt, Germany Ladenburg, Germany Heidleberg, Germany Rothenburg, Germany Wurzburg, Germany   Stockholm, Sweden   Turku, Finland Helsinki, Finland   Tallinn, Estonia   Prague, Czech Republic     Carribean Havana, Cuba Matanzas, Cuba Varadaro, Cuba   Belize City, Belize   Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands   Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan   Mexico Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Cozumel, Mexico   USA San Fransisco, California Santa Monica, California Hollywood, California Malibu, California   Chandler, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Flagstaff, Arizona Grand Canyon, Arizona Tucson, Arizona Apache Junction, Arizona Mesa, Arizona Scottsdale, Arizona Sedona, Arizona Tempe, Arizona   Las Vegas, Nevada   Seattle, Washington Spokane, Washington Blaine, Washington   Buffalo, New York Syracuse, New York   Orlando, Florida   Honolulu, Hawaii Kihei, Hawaii Lahaina, Hawaii Waikiki, Hawaii Hana, Hawaii   Canada Vancouver, British Columbia Victoria, British Columbia Surry, British Columbia Kelowna, British Columbia Kamloops, British Columbia Nanaimo, British Columbia, Gabriola Island, British Columbia Revelstoke, British Columbia   Calgary, Alberta (home town) Banff, Alberta Canmore, Alberta Edmonton, Alberta Lacombe, Alberta Leduc, Alberta Grande Prarie, Alberta Red Deer, Alberta Drumhellar, Alberta Airdrie, Albera Lethbridge, Alberta Medicine Hat, Alberta   Canora, Saskatchewan Swift Current, Saskatchewan Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan   Toronto, Ontario North York, Ontario Etobicoke, Ontario Burlington, Ontario Niagra Falls Ontario Ottawa, Ontario Kingston, Ontario Kemptville, Ontario Greely, Ontario Mississauga, Ontario Pickering, Ontario St. Catherines, Ontario   Hull, Quebec   Halifax, Nova Scotia Dartmouth, Nova Scotia Berwick, Nova Scotia Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia   That’s it for now folks! I will continue to update this list as things come up to keep a nice running total (mostly for myself since i just spent an hour googling places… ha! bad memory 🙁 ). Thanks for dropping...

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