WHOA lansi

francophile, oenophile, logophile, turophile

Category: Travel Page 2 of 5

SeaWheeze 2016


This run was a long time in the works, & I don’t just mean in the sense that we signed up almost a full year in advance. I started talking about someday running it with my friend Zoe back in 2013. We wound up setting our wedding date for the day after the 2014 race though, so it wasn’t in the cards that year. I figured that was ok though, & I’d run in 2015. Foiled again, as registration opened while we were on our honeymoon & Zoe didn’t have enough of my personal information to sign me up. Darn!

So last September, I put all my information into Eventbrite before registration opened & was lucky enough to score one of the coveted few spots in the run (if you can call 10 000 spots few). I then proceeded to forget about it until about May, when I realized I should probably start training.

I’d had grand plans to PR, given that I’d be training at altitude & racing at sea level. Summer got in the way of that goal a little bit though, & I didn’t end up training anywhere close to as well as I should have. When it came time to fly to Vancouver for the weekend, I had decided I’d just have to be happy with a finish.

flight view

Cloudy skies on my flight


Coming in to Vancouver

I’d made plans to meet my friends at the ridiculous Lululemon Showcase Store on Friday morning, so I flew out Thursday night & stayed with a girlfriend in Mount Pleasant. Hotel Sasha is my go-to accommodation when I visit. I feel pretty lucky to be able to fit in a visit with a great friend & be staying in a fantastic neighbourhood.

I’d been wanting to try Vij’s for years, so I took myself for a later dinner after I arrived. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend stopping by as it ranks high on my list of best overall meals. I arrived around 9 pm & was told there was an hour wait (yes, there’s pretty much always a wait. It’s worth it). There was space in the lounge if I wanted to enjoy a drink & some appetizers while I waited, they told me. I thought that sounded great, so I found a cozy spot in their beautiful lounge & ordered myself one of the best sours I’ve ever had.

My whole twitter feed was basically a love letter to Vij’s that night. They had me at that Cambie Sour. Every few minutes, they came around with a different snack to try. I was in heaven; sipping my cocktail & watching the kitchen prepare naan (it’s mesmerizing to watch).


the lounge at Vij's & my cocktail

the lounge at Vij’s & my cocktail

Making naan

Making naan

It wasn’t long before a server came to take me to a table, or at least it didn’t feel long given my fantastic drink, the snacks, & my view of the kitchen as entertainment. I decided to get a glass of red wine to go with dinner & quickly decided on the wine marinated lamb with fenugreek cream curry. Generally if there is lamb on a menu, I’m all over it. This ranked very near the top of best things I’ve eaten. The flavours were incredible, the naan was perfect, the lamb was cooked beautifully. It was bliss. I left the restaurant smiling ear to ear.


My perfect lamb dish. I will dream about this for years.

The next morning came early. Luckily I was on Alberta time & Sasha was up early to start setting up at the expo for work so I was able to catch a ride to the convention centre. When I arrived people had been in line since the night before, & it looped around the building already. It was 5:30 am. I ended up making friends in the line (my other friends were an hour behind me & too scared to budge with me) & picked up a few nice items. I’m not sure I’d line up that early if I run again, but I’m glad to have had the experience for my first SeaWheeze. For the rest of the day, we hung out around the expo, getting temporary tattoos, having our hair braided, enjoying some great snacks, & taking fun photos together. It was one of the best expos I’ve ever been to, & the weather was fantastic.


Watching the sun rise


Expo line up at the back of the building


Showcase Store Haul


PARTY crew!



Treats while waiting in line!


A messy braid that actually stayed for the whole race

20160812_133131 20160812_142510

That night, after we’d checked into our hostel, we headed down to Kadoya Sushi for dinner. Sushi is probably my favourite pre-race meal, & Vancouver has some of the best. Afterwards, we were pretty tired from our day in the sun, so we headed to bed pretty early. That 5 am wakeup call comes pretty quick.

pre-race sashimi

pre-race sashimi

We were staying at the Samesun Hostel on Granville, which was only about a 15 minute walk from the start line, so we all walked down together with a few new friends who were also staying the hostel. Most people in the SeaWheeze facebook group were staying in nice hotels near the start, but we decided the hostel price was right for us. We had a private room & significantly more money to spend in Vancouver.

For the race, Zoe & I felt we would be running around the same pace & would stick together, at least in the beginning. If you’ve ever run Seawheeze, you know how epic the cheering stations are. I’d heard rumours about them, but they far exceeded my expectations. My friend, Sasha, was on the Burrard Street bridge with Clearly, & when she saw me, she gave me the biggest hug & ran a few steps with me. It was definitely one of the highlights of the race for me.

Morning walk to the start

Morning walk to the start

race ready!

race ready!

Start Line

Start Line

Sea wall

Sea wall

Sea wall

Sea wall (& amazing photos while running! 😉 )

Zoe & I ran together until about 18 km, when I had to walk for longer than expected & we lost each other. Not only was my training not quite there, but it was also really hot, so I had to slow down. There isn’t a whole lot of shade along the route, & even though I felt like I drank a lot of water, I was really struggling by the end. I ended up finishing with a time of 2:08, which isn’t as far off my personal best as I was expecting. I guess training at altitude really does work wonders. The competitive side of me is really wishing I’d training better so I could have really taken advantage of altitude training.

Zoe pulling me along the seawall

Zoe pulling me along the seawall

Thanks for keeping me going, friend!

Thanks for keeping me going, friend!

I found Zoe at the finish line afterwards & we weaved through the finishers stations to get our swag. I swear this stuff is half the reason a lot of people run this race. Not only is the medal sweet, but Sage was there with cooling & pain oils, there are some great snacks, a finishers hat, & lots of other cool things. The runners brunch after was a delicious breakfast sandwich, & we were lucky to have finished before they ran out of water (I can’t imagine that’ll be a repeat mistake by lulu. Big oops!).



We eventually found the rest of our crew & headed back towards our hotel in search of some drinks. We were all pretty ready for a drink after our run, & it was shaping up to be a gorgeous day! We found a pub & had a few before heading back to the hostel to change & shower.

A few weeks before the race, I’d started a twitter convo with the Seawheeze account & wound up telling them our proposal story. They thought it was so cute & wanted to give us something special during the race, but since N wasn’t coming, they treated me & the girls to pedicures. It was such a lovely surprise! Thanks again, Lululemon!

Pedicures. Thanks, Lululemon!

Pedicures. Thanks, Lululemon!

The sunset festival was that evening, but beforehand, we headed over to Gringo in Gastown for dinner. It’s this little spot (in a slightly sketchy alley) where the waiters learn your names, the drinks are delicious, & the food is awesome. I would go back in a heartbeat. I wish we could have stayed longer, but we had a festival to get to. The shuttle picked us up from the convention center & took us to the festival, where we joined the Clearly girls on the grass for some drinks & music. The festival was really fun, especially once we found a system for getting more than a single beer at a time. I really hope they change that rule for next year. The last thing you want to do after running a half marathon is wait in a really long line for a single beer.

Gringos tacos!

Gringo tacos!

Sunset Festival

Sunset Festival

Yoga mats for miles

Yoga mats for miles

Courageous Blondes & fresh pedis

Courageous Blondes & fresh pedis

SeaWheeze 2016

Tomorrow is registration for Seawheeze & you can bet I’ll be trying to get in. It’s one of the most intense processes to get into a race I’ve ever experienced, but we’re all going for it again. Wish us luck, & hopefully we’ll see you at the start line next year.

La Manzanilla: Take Two

La Manzanilla

A couple years ago, a big group of us headed down to a small town in Mexico for one of the best week-long beach vacations I’ve ever had. We came home vowing it wouldn’t be the last time we spent time in La Manzanilla. & this winter, we made good on that promise.

Despite being hit by Hurricane Patricia in the fall, the town was almost exactly how I remembered it – that is to say, perfect. I didn’t think we would ever top our 2014 trip, but an extra couple days in paradise certainly didn’t hurt. This time, we stayed for 9 days instead of 7 & the extra couple of days were really lovely.

La Manzanilla

First photo always has to be of the view. I mean, can you blame me?

La Manzanilla

Unreal sunsets every night

Unreal sunsets every night

Settling into our villa

Settling into our villa

Starting things off right with tequila, duh

Starting things off right with tequila, duh

Walk into town

Walk into town


Estrellas at Palapa Joe’s

Palapa Joe's

We had a slightly different group this time, but the key players were the same. We had a full house, but everyone got along really well again. Most of us are pretty low key & everyone felt comfortable either joining the majority or opting out to do their own thing. It worked out really well, & we usually met up at one of the palapas on the beach at some point in the day.


To the beach!


first margarita



mexico chill

dutch boy in mexico

boys being boys



beach dance class

mexican town

beach days


Heather killing it on the SUP


Beach Walks




My beach bae




Catching waves



Most of our days consisted of sitting on the beach, eating, drinking, reading, & catching some sun. I rarely go more than five minutes without thinking about food, & La Manzanilla certainly doesn’t disappoint here. From the spicy garlic pulpo (octopus) to the incredibly addictive Breakfast BLTs to the street-side tacos, everything we ate was incredible. Most of it wasn’t fancy, but the fresh components of every dish really made our meals shine. My favourite meal was probably the pulpo at Azul – it was the most tender octopus I’ve ever eaten. I loved it so much, I ate it twice & am now wishing I’d had it a couple more times. There was just so much great food to try!


Pedro’s Fish Tacos


Delicious margs all day long


Azul’s pulpo is the stuff dreams are made of. Serioiusly.

Street Tacos

Street Tacos

Street Tacos


Street Enchiladas hitting it out of the park

Street Meat

N waiting on his street meat

While most of our days were spent relaxing, we did have a couple different activities planned during our stay. The first was brunch with D’s family at the cutest spot down the beach. We did the same a couple years ago. Once again, the food was fantastic & the atmosphere was amazing. I mean, does it get any better than brunch with an ocean view? Afterwards, we opted to walk back to town along the beach, the same as last year. It’s a trek, but we enjoyed it once again.

brunch crew

Our crew at brunch

boutique hotel

The hotel


Gimme all the chilaquiles

beach walk

Beach Walk

beach walk

beach walk

Love Birds

beach walk

Therapy Hotel

beach walk

The town also has a crocodile sanctuary, so this year we decided to brave the walk through it. For a few dollars, we got to walk along a boardwalk for some  jawdropping  croc sightings. Most of these guys were HUGE. I have to admit, it felt a little sketchy. At the end of our little walk, we were treated to an opportunity to hold a baby croc. It was totally unexpected in a few ways, but namely that he was SO soft.

mexican streets

I love this street on the way to the cocodrilos







tiny guy


one of many sketchy suspension bridges


baby croc



so many babies!


One of our friends also celebrated his thirtieth birthday. We rang in his birthday with a lovely sunset bar dinner followed by drinks & games (& way too many tequila shots). Not a bad way to spend your birthday, if you ask me!

sunset bar

Really tough to grab a drink here


My fav Mexico drink. Also the most dangerous.

sunset bar

Birthday Dinner

sunset bar

sunset bar

Sunset bar delivers an amazing sunset

sunset bar

sew kewt

sunset bar

sunset bar

The two lovebird & their wives

sunset bar


sunset bar

sunset bar


beer fridge

How we roll on vacation.

Overall, it was an incredible vacation with great company. This little town is the perfect beach vacation! The incredible food & beautiful accommodations keep me daydreaming about our next trip down even months later. I can’t imagine going to an all inclusive again now after the two incredible experiences we’ve had in La Manzanilla.

mexico dogs

Pups on a roof

mexico streets

main street

la manzanilla

la manzanilla

great breakfast spot

old truck

la manzanilla

end tan

final tans

It was pretty hard to limit this post in terms of photos – this place is so photogenic, & we had a fantastic time. It would’t have been the same without this crew though. #squadgoals

squad goals

squad goals

squad goals

Thanks for the best winter getaway a girl could ask for friends! (& if you made it to the end of this post, congrats! 😉 )

That lake life

Lake 3

I’ve been in and around water my whole life. Growing up, my parents had a 26-foot cabin cruiser that we spent most vacations on, cruising from island to island. My love & respect for the water began there. Competitive swimming naturally followed. I spent years swimming back and forth, back and forth, & I don’t regret a single lap. I went on to swim varsity in university, which lead to coaching & teaching swimming lessons when I retired. I just couldn’t stay away from the water!

& I’m the first to admit that most water-related activities come much easier to me than those on land – I aced my scuba diving tests, for example, even though everyone made fun of me for falling asleep in the classroom portion. Stick me on a wakeboard & I’ll impress you far more than I ever could with its snowier counterpart. Frankly, I’m awkward on land, & anyone who knows me well will undoubtedly agree. At any given moment, I can point out at least one bruise from this awkwardness. (Maybe this comes as a surprise after all those super graceful gymnastics photos of me. The real gymnasts are very entertained by my attempts.)

Dock with N


As I’ve gotten older, I’ve spent less & less time in the water. I’m certainly not as excited at the prospect of spending multiple hours working out in a pool anymore. & while I do love a good swim workout from time to time, I prefer to get my water fix at the lake or in the ocean.

My parents spent a few years looking for property on a lake before they settled on Columbia Lake, in the East Kootenay. They built a beautiful house &, almost a decade later, it has become one of my favourite places to get away to. Its proximity to Calgary is a huge draw. A three hour drive away, it’s an easy weekend trip. It’s quiet, relaxing, & absolutely gorgeous. There are restrictions on mooring, so it’s a lot quieter than its very popular sister, Lake Windermere (Something I’m always grateful for as a wakeboarder. Give me calm water & space!).

I usually only pop out for a long weekend, here & there, but last summer we stopped out there for a few extra days, hoping to log some hours on the boat as the season drew to a close.

Dock Alanna-2

Unfortunately, the fires put a bit of a damper on those plans. Visibility was fine by the time we got out there, but the smoke kept the temperatures low. It seemed the sun just couldn’t break through. Nonetheless, I thought these photos were beautiful in their own way. You can’t see either of the mountain ranges very clearly, & it’s not the crystal clear water & blue skies that come to mind when I think of summertime out there, but it’s still beautiful.

Lake 1

Lake 2


The always gorgeous view of Columbia Lake

I wound up sick while we were on this trip, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. As I was sorting through the ones for my anniversary post, I came across these & thought they were pretty in a different kind of way & figured I might as well share. I’m getting excited for summer & more time out at the lake. One of favourite things to do is grab coffee out on the lakehouse’s front deck. Sometimes those simple little things become my favourites.

Spent the weekend taking lots of patio naps.

Spent the weekend taking lots of patio naps.

Do you have a special place like this? What’s your favourite thing to do in the warmer months?

Anniversary in Kelowna


I promised I’d finally get to posting this now that my blog is up & running on again here. In typical Alanna form, we’re only 8 months late to the party. It’s a little ridiculous, I know, but hey, it may just be perfect timing for that trip to Kelowna you’re planning this summer! We’ll go with that.

N & I had decided to stick closer to home this year after our big Europe trip last summer. We were buying a house & knew we shouldn’t spend a lot of money on travel, but still wanted to do something to celebrate our first year of marriage. My childhood friend was getting married a couple days before our anniversary so it worked out perfectly for us to spend some time in Kelowna afterwards too.

The fires in Washington were pretty bad at this point, so our drive was like this for most of the way. Normally you can see for miles when you’re out on the Coquihalla, so it was surreal to have such poor visibility.

Drive to Kelowna

We arrived safely in Kelowna in the late afternoon & checked into our hotel. We’d stayed at the  El Dorado on our wedding night, but it was such a quick stay that we didn’t get to fully appreciate this gorgeous boutique hotel. We ended up with a gorgeous suite this time around (Thank you Hotel El Dorado for the incredible upgrade!) complete with kitchen, living room, jacuzzi bathtub in the bedroom (what?!), & incredible view of the marina & Lake Okanagan.

El Dorado Room

Our gorgeous suite

El Marina

The marina at the El. The haze from the fires was pretty thick all weekend.

Dress pre anni

Dressed up for a pre-anniversary dinner

Marina View

N & I Kelowna

For our pre-anniversary dinner, we decided not to stray too far from the hotel & made a reservation at their lakeside restaurant. Even if you aren’t staying at the El, I highly recommend having dinner there. They have a beautiful patio on the lake, & the restaurant inside is equally stunning. I’ve eaten there four times now (twice for dinner, twice for brunch) & have been impressed each time. The service has always been fantastic & the food is top notch too. This time we shared salmon gravlax to start. For our mains, N went with beef & I had the lamb. Both were beautifully prepared & came in huge portions. It made me feel better about spending a little more on dinner since we took home some amazing leftovers. We also splurged on a bottle of wine from one of my favourites in the area, Quails’ Gate.

Pre anni El dinner

My handsome dinner date with the Salmon Gravlax


My lamb


N’s beef

We weren’t quite ready to head to bed afterwards, so we headed out to the patio for a few more drinks. The smoke on the water gave the lakeside such an eerie feeling. I almost felt like were in London on a foggy fall day, but it was actually quite warm & pleasant outside.

El Patio Drinks

Eery lakeside view

El Rooftop View-2

Rooftop peak

El rooftop view

For our anniversary, I had booked a Wine Tour  through the El Dorado. They arranged everything for us so all we had to do was mention which wineries we were interested in & be ready to go outside the hotel that morning. Our tour was called the Daytripper & featured 6 wineries as well as lunch at Terrafina at Hester Creek. We had picked that one since we were not very familiar with the wineries near Osoyoos & figured it would be nice to have someone driving us around so we wouldn’t have to worry about tasting too much.

Waiting for our ride

Waiting for our ride

Our tour guide picked us up early in a large van (apparently they do Bachelorette parties too how fun!). We had one other person on the tour with us so it was pretty intimate & he tailored our stops to our specific interests. It was perfect!

Our first stop was LaStella, a small winery just up from Osoyoos Lake. We opted to sit outside on their patio despite the smokey weather. They brought us out a lovely assortment of wines & talked us through each one. I truly loved them all, & found the naming of their wines after musical notes charming. We couldn’t resist purchasing a bottle to start our collection – something we continued at every stop.  We went with the Pinot Grigio – Vivace – & I just noticed that we still have it. We’ll have to open that when N is home next, I think!

La Stella

Hard at work

La Stella


Our next stop wasn’t far down the road. Maverick is another small batch winery. Earlier that summer, they had come dangerously close to a wild fire. Luckily, the local crews kept the blaze under control & saved their vines & winery. You could still see the scorched earth up the hill. I can’t believe how close it was. We chose to take home a Pinot Noir this time. We’ve since enjoyed that bottle & I’m quite sad we didn’t pick up a few extra bottles at every winery.

By this time, we were almost ready for lunch so we headed over to Hester Creek. They seemed to be bigger than our first two stops, but we enjoyed the tasting & the wines just as much. We decided to add a rosé to our collection here, as our tour guide enthusiastically recommended it. He also insisted we do one of the premium tastings, which was covered in the cost of our tour.

Hester Creek


Our lunch stop was at Hester Creek’s restaurant, Terrafina. Their menu & decor is inspired by Tuscany. You’ll find lots of Italian food here & they are pretty well-known for their pizzas, so that’s what N & I went with. The lunch size is perfect to keep you going through however many more wine tastings you have planned.


Hester Creek-2

Hester Creek-3

A at Hester Creek

N at Hester Creek

Next up, our guide had arranged a very special tasting at Culmina. This was by far my favourite tasting of the day. It was so private & intimate, just the four of us with Elaine Triggs herself & a new member of their team. Learning the Triggs’ story (yes, those Triggs) & everything that went into making this winery a reality was the most wonderful experience. Elaine is a fantastic story teller & what they have created as a family blew my mind. We’ve been saving their wines for a special day & I absolutely can’t wait to enjoy them again with N. If you do one wine tasting in the interior,  make it a Reserve Tasting at Culmina & sit down with these wonderful people.  You won’t regret it.

We purchased two bottles from Culmina because we thought they were both so unique. The saignée (their rosé) is one of the coolest bottles I’ve ever seen, with a glass stopper instead of a cork.




Grape Vines Osoyoos-2

Grape Vines Osoyoos

The building is absolutely gorgeous too!
Culmina Building

Culmina Building-2

As a syrah lover, I was especially excited for our fifth stop: Burrowing Owl. They have some beautiful ones here! The views from this winery were said to be stunning & the food is supposed to be great. We may have to make a return trip when the area isn’t covered in a smokey blanket. This winery is also home to endangered owls, hence the name Burrowing Owl. This is another bottle that I can’t wait to open. We’ve definitely been rationing our stores – it’s hard to find so many of these anywhere but the actual wineries, so I have a hard time opening them.

Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl-2

The last stop on our tour was LaStella’s French sister – Le Vieux Pin. I had specifically asked to visit this winery before the tour. No only do they have the best Syrah’s in the area, but we also considered it for our wedding the year before. I had seen some spectacular photos of events on the grounds, but wanted to see it in person, & taste their wine.

Their goal is to pay homage to the wines & winemaking traditions of France, & I certainly think they deliver on this. They have three different Syrahs to choose from & we tried, & enjoyed, all three. We purchased a bottle of the Cuvée Violette, which we plan to age for a few years before drinking.
Le Vieux Pin

Vieux Pin Syrah

Six wineries later, it was time to head back to Kelowna. We were pretty tired after a long day, & I was unfortunately not feeling my best. (Great timing eh! Sick on our anniversary hurray!) We napped a bit on the way back & then got ready for dinner. I’d booked us a table at Summerhill to celebrate. We sat on the patio & reminisced about our wedding night. Once again, the food impressed me a lot. I had an amazing steak, complete with bone marrow on the side. N went with the duck. Once again, he thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a great end to a fantastic day.

Summerhill Anniversary-2

Summerhill Anniversary

Summerhill Steak

The next day we were headed out to Vernon to see my grandma. We slept in & then stopped for lunch at Salted Brick in downtown Kelowna. They make their own charcuterie, so I opted for the ploughman’s lunch. N went with an amazing pulled pork sandwich. We sat outside on their front patio & people-watched as we ate, asking ourselves how it was that we still hadn’t started our own charcuterie shop (as we’ve so often discussed).

Salted Brick

We couldn’t go to Kelowna without stopping at my favourite pastry shop, Sandrine. They were responsible for our wedding deserts & make the most incredible macarons. If you ever happen to be there, I’d definitely suggest stopping in. The rest of their stuff is pretty great too, but I’m definitely partial to the macarons. Sandrine also happens to be from Lyon, so she’s the real deal when it comes to French pastries. 😉

Sandrine Macarons

I also really enjoyed their sign explaining the difference between a macaron & a macaroon, the former being far, FAR superior to the latter, of course.


So that’s what we got up for our anniversary in Kelowna. I love exploring the area & the wineries around it. I hope to get to do a lot more of it too – there’s still so much I’d love to see!

VanCity in the Summer


After using last year’s vacation for a pretty big trip to Europe, we knew we’d have to stick a little closer to home this year. So when my childhood friend chose to have her wedding at home in Vancouver, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to spend a little more time in one of my favourite cities. Although I’m technically from the lower mainland, I haven’t spent a lot of time in the actual city of Vancouver. It’s always been a pretty quick overnight, giving us the opportunity to grab dinner, drinks, & maybe some brunch the next morning.

In order to have a full, uninterrupted day of exploring downtown, we decided to leave a day earlier than usual. We bunked in a friend, like we have in the past. I briefly considered a few hotels, but there’s nothing better than staying with someone you know. She also happens to live in an incredible location & is an awesome hostess – making us feel totally welcome from the minute we arrived. I’m hoping we can return the favour sometime soon (Stampede, Sash?! Do it!).


Morning at 49th Parallel on Main



Perfect patio weather for coffee & a donut

We started the day at a nearby local coffee shop, 49th Parallel. Not only is their coffee fantastic, but they also serve amazing Lucky’s Doughnuts in a fantastic little shop. We split an apple bacon fritter on the patio before heading back to the house to get ready for the day.

As it was a gorgeous summer day, we opted to walk to Granville Island for lunch (or pre-lunch? We had sushi plans for later too). The walk from Mount Pleasant to Granville Island was a nice half hour stroll. We arrived ready to sample some of the delicious food at the market, having worked up a bit of an appetite during our walk.



SInce we had plans to get sushi later, so we opted to split a smoked salmon bagel to tide us over until then. I love Montreal style bagels & was pleasantly surprised to find these were pretty close to the real thing – something I rarely notice this far West. We ate them outside on a bench, overlooking the harbour, & fighting off the feisty pigeons. Those little buggers will fight you to get their hands on any little scrap. Guard your precious food closely!



Notice the seagull patiently waiting for some scraps



It turned out to be a pretty eventful morning for us – we officially closed on our house as we munched on our bagel. Luckily, Granville Island Brewing was a few steps away, so we made our way over for a few celebratory beers.


Officially homeowners!

From there, we hopped on a water taxi downtown. For a few bucks, we were ferried across False Creek to the Aquatic Center on a cute little passenger boat. I really enjoyed the ride over, & the beautiful views. We were also getting pretty hungry so cutting off some time in favour of getting to sushi seemed like a good plan.

Our friends first introduced us to Kadoya Sushi a few years ago & it’s become a must-visit every time we’re in Vancouver. We’ve fought rush hour to eat there. It’s seriously that good. (Most sushi in Vancouver would give Calgary’s selection a run for its money, but this one is our fav!)


We ordered our usual favourites: an avocado roll, a dynamite roll, a spicy salmon roll, a specialty roll, & of course, the star of the whole show – salmon sashimi. I think I could eat salmon sashimi every day & not get sick of it. (We both included it in our vows without consulting one another. The obsession is strong…)



Imitating their little sign mascot!


Davie Street Crosswalks

Next on the list was a bike ride around Stanley Park. We rented bikes from one of the many shops near the park’s entrance. Our bikes were nothing special (when was the last time you used rear brakes?!), but the path is flat & easy. I’d recommend it to anyone – you’re rewarded with breathtaking views & there’s plenty of spots to stop along the way. It also helps work off all the sushi & beer (so you can make room for more!).




It turned out to be much warmer than forecasted that day & I kept wishing we’d packed bathing suits as we biked passed the many beaches along our route. Instead we stopped for beers at a pub under the Burrard St Bridge – not a bad compromise if you ask me.


We returned our bikes before dinner & started the trek towards China town. I’m never in a huge rush on vacation so although it was a bit of a longer walk across town, we were ok with it. & there were German sausages at the end of road!


Entering Chinatown


We’d settled on a little german spot in Chinatown (yes, you read that correctly) called Bestie. Serving up a delicious selection of sausages, fries, salads, pretzels, currywurst, & beer, this place is wicked! The food is cheap, the beer is good, & the servers are fun & friendly. I highly recommend checking it out if you like German fare even a little bit.




N went with the popular currywurst – sausage served with curried ketchup over crispy fries – & I went with sausage & sauerkraut. Both were excellent, but the currywurst was the show stopper, & at $9 you really can’t go wrong! We also shared the daily salad: a spicy peanut slaw. I’m a sucker for a good coleslaw & this one was especially delicious. I would love to get my hands on that recipe!

We enjoyed our first steins so much that we wound up sticking around for a second one. They had a great atmosphere going, & sitting at the bar, we found ourselves chatting with the bartenders, all of whom seemed to be enjoying their evening at work too.



Look for the neon sausage above the window!

We capped off the night with a drink in Gastown. I doubt I’m alone in loving this neighbourhood, & it seems impossible to take a bad photo of its cobblestone streets. They’re just so pretty! We got a couple drinks at The Flying Pig before packing it in. We figured we should call it a night relatively early, in preparation for what would probably be a late night at the wedding.


The following day, we headed back downtown with Sasha to meet another friend for some tacos. I’d heard so many rave reviews about Tacofino & was pretty excited to finally check out their Gastown location. We grabbed a spot on the patio & dug into some of the best tacos this side of the border. They were seriously delicious! N & split a few different kinds, but I think my favourite was the Pork al Pastor. The simplicity of pork, pineapple, & pickle onion on a corn tortilla was exactly what I’d been craving (& has got me seriously stoked for our trip down to Mexico in the new year!).

After lunch, we had to head out to Langley pretty quick. I could have easily spent another couple days exploring, & eating, more in Vancouver. Our visits always seem to go by so quickly (probably cuz they are quite short.) Lucky for us, it’s not too far away so I’m sure we’ll make another trip out soon!

Honeymoon 018 \ Milano


Well over a year after our honeymoon, I’m finally wrapping this series up. I didn’t set out with the intention of taking so long to blog about our adventure, but that’s how it wound up going down. At this point, I’m mostly blogging this as a souvenir for myself. Some people scrapbook. I like to journal so these posts have served as an extension of that. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride – it’s been fun reminiscing with you.

On to our final day in Europe: Milan. Let me preface this by saying that I had absolutely no expectations for this stop. I didn’t think I wouldn’t enjoy Milan, but I also didn’t put a lot of thought into it when we booked – it was a city with an airport, the final destination before heading back to reality.

If it hadn’t been for our incredible host, I doubt we’d have had half the experience we did. Marina was amazing & I highly recommend you stay with her if you’re ever in Milan. I certainly know I will. As soon as we arrived, she made us feel incredibly welcome in her great flat, introducing us to Milan using an extra large map on the back of the door & giving us the most wonderful suggestions for how to spend our evening. The flat itself had drinks, coffee, & breakfast as well. Marina had even taken the time to assemble a guide to Milan, complete with hand-drawn maps. Honestly, she went above & beyond in every way. I could have stayed so much longer in her homey flat.


My night photography doesn’t quite do it justice – it was such a bright & airy space during the day.


We took her suggestion to wander the pedestrian street, Corso Como, towards Porta Garibaldi, which features a beautiful arch. She’d also recommended a little restaurant called Sciatt à Porter. Specializing in Italian street food, we grabbed a cone of their namesake specialty, Sciatt. If these deep fried cheese balls were any indication of the rest of their menu, we should have ordered a few more things!


One of the cool buildings near our flat


Corso Como


Porta Garibaldi



Clearly excited for fried cheese (I mean, I travelled to Prague for fried cheese in 2009.)


Fried cheese to go. Genius!


Sciatt! This makes me hungry. For cheese.

Instead, we continued over to Eataly – the giant upscale italian supermarket & eatery. We picked up some food to bring home & another snack from the road. N’s snack selection makes his cured meat obsession quite apparent – it’s not the easiest on-the-go snack, but it sure is delicious! Housed in an old theatre, Eataly even hosts performances sometimes. We happened to catch one while we were there. It definitely makes for an interesting shopping & dining experience.


Pasta at Eataly



Whoa back flexibility


Meat snack!


From there, we continued down the pedestrian street to the castle – Castello Sforzesco. They were planning this as the entrance for this year’s Expo & there were celebrations & preparation happening all over the city. The castle itself is huge & mostly brick, something you don’t often see.





I love a yellow tram







Our next stop was the beautiful Duomo. The square & church are just incredible. We arrived at dusk, snapped a few photos, & decided it had been awhile since our last drink. We found a spot near the Duomo, but if we are even in Milan again, I’d love to go to area around Porta Genova. Marina told us it has a great atmosphere in the evening & considering how much we loved the rest of her suggestions, I think it would be right up our alley.




Duomo Selfie!


Expensive wine in a very touristy area

We had chosen a restaurant near Marina’s flat for dinner. When we arrived, it was packed & we were a little worried we may not get in. Luckily, they took pity on us (it seemed to be mostly locals) & found us a table within 15 minutes. Osteria dei Vecchi Sapori was spectacular. We ordered Osso bucco, a specialty of Milan. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender & the flavours were incredible. I’d recommend it to anyone!


The only (terrible) photo I have of the UNREAL osso bucco. 🙁

We capped off the evening relaxing in our wonderful flat with a couple of beers. I hope to find myself back in Milan someday – we only barely scratched the surface. In fact, I hope to find myself in all our honeymoon spots again someday. Blogging each of them over the past year has further intensified my wanderlust. We’ve even begun talking about a trip to Northern Europe in 2017 (& I’ve already started drafting up some ideas!).


Goodbye, Milano!

Honeymoon 017 \ Cinque Terre Due


Our second day in Cinque Terre started much the same as the first – with a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, & cappuccinos. We then made our way down the 300 or so stairs to the train station to buy tickets to Milan for the following day as well as a Cinque Terre Card for the day. We’d decided to hike the blue trail to Vernazza & then take a boat to Monterrosso, both of which would require the card.

The hike to Vernazza was as stunning as the two we’d done the day before, although a little busier. We saw twice the number of people we’d seen not the red trails – likely because they are part of the suggested routes. The most striking thing for me was the range of ages & abilities. I was happy to see such a diverse group attempting the hike. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were too. & I mean, what’s not to love? Every time we looked back at Corniglia, I thought I had spotted my favourite view of the little village. Inevitably, we’d round another corner only to discover another that blew me away.


Trailhead to Vernazza











Trail markers along the way




Nearing Vernazza, we were rewarded with stunning views of the little village. We seemed to round a corner & suddenly find the village laid out in below. Looking down on Vernazza from the trail was one of my favourite vistas of the whole trip.

Hungry for our hike, we were pretty excited for the pizza recommendation I’d stumbled upon. I didn’t have a name, but had read we couldn’t miss it. As you descend towards the port, you’ll more or less stumble right into it. If that doesn’t tip you off, the line certainly should! It’s popular little spot.



Excited to see Vernazza



Arriving in Vernazza


We snagged a table right before the rush & ordered two pizzas – pesto & sausage, predictably- & two beers. The pizza had a focaccia-like crust that was different from any other pizza we’d ordered in Italy. No complaints here – you probably could have put pesto on a cracker & I’d have been happy though, honestly.


Pizza line-up


Pint of Peroni


Can you blame me for my pesto obsession?


All of N’s loves in one photo?


I’m not sure if it was the time of day or the town itself, but we found it considerably busier than any of the others we visited. After lunch, we wandered around the port before grabbing a large beer to share & setting up on some towels by the water. It doesn’t get much better than soaking up the sun, playing in the ocean, & sharing a cold beer on a hot day. Once we’d had our fill, we bought a couple tickets for the boat ride to the final land.


Exploring town


Tunnel to the beach





Another gorgeous harbour




Beers & Sun




Waiting for the boat!

We’d opted for the boat to save ourselves some time. We’d read that Vernazza to Monterosso was the hardest of the four hikes, & although I’m sure we could have managed, we didn’t want to feel rushed catching the train back to Corniglia. I love being out the ocean so the boat wasn’t a hard sell.

Monterosso had more of a beach feel than any of the other towns. We wandered around town, stopping in on little shops along the way to check out local products & art. There was so much wonderful art, & the photography was especially impressive. We picked up a print to bring home & headed over to a beachside restaurant for a drink with a view.



Goodbye Vernazza


Monterosso from the boat


The street(s) of Monterosso



Beach bar hangs

We finished our drinks & hopped on the train back to Corniglia for appies & wine at the cutest enoteca. The little garden patio overlooking the bay was the ideal setting for our final sunset. Their cheeky signs (announcing their lack of wifi to encourage conversation), delicious wine & appies, & wonderful service were the perfect way to watch the day wind down.




Cheeky explanation for their lack of Wi-Fi




Can I eat this now?



Getting our daily fill of sardines. They are so much more delicious when they’re fresh!


Corniglia from our rooftop. If you look closely you can spot the little enoteca.


Sunset from our rooftop

After sunset, we climbed a little further up the hill for dinner. I couldn’t resist a final meal including that incredible pesto. Pesto twice in one day? Works for me! Heading into the village centre for a couple of beers afterwards, we discovered a cute little spot. All of the bars in Corniglia are on the smaller side, giving them an especially intimate feel. Each has it’s own special features, leaving me feeling like I could have easily spent a few more days exploring (& imbibing). I certainly didn’t want to go to bed, knowing we’d be leaving in the morning.


On the roof before dinner


One last sunset




& more local wine

We reluctantly packed up our airbnb rental in the morning & headed over to another little garden restaurant for a leisurely breakfast – trying to soak up the last of Cinque Terre before our train. The surprising highlight of breakfast turned out to be a freshly squeezed orange-lemon juice, or the most incredible juice in the world. I wish I’d learned about it sooner! I’d have ordered it daily.


Our breakfast beverage spread.


Cappuccinos in the garden. Why did I ever leave?


It doesn’t look like much, but this juice was everything, guys.


Final goodbyes

As we walked down the winding road to the train station, rolling suitcases in tow, we watched the men working in the vineyards. It must have been harvest. Most were gathering grapes into red bins & putting them in the back of their trucks. One man carried his down in a bucket on his back & put it in the back of his car. They politely said hello as we passed – I’m sure we looked completely ridiculous & out of place to them, trekking down the hill with all our luggage.  Every interaction during our stay in Cinque Terre had been warm & friendly, so it seemed fitting that it should end in the same way.




I want to remember every detail of Cinque Terre. I loved every minute we spent exploring those breathtaking five lands & if I could only suggest one place to visit in Italy, this would be it.

On Bravery


Château de Chenonceau – Loire Valley (2006)

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly brave person. Independent, strong-willed, stubborn – yes. If you asked me to describe myself, I wouldn’t use brave as a qualifier though. It figures pretty low down the list, & I’d actually probably describe myself as more cautious. I reserve that description for soldiers, firefighters, & the like.

My best friend is backpacking through Europe on her own right now though, & we were discussing the comments that ultimately come up when you decide to go on such an adventure. I’ve done the bulk of my travel alone, & as I’ve expressed many times before, I am passionate in my belief that solo travel is important. I suppose I’d given her the impression that it’s also normal. Unfortunately, ten years after my first trip, it’s still not. In fact, more often than not, people comment that they could never travel alone. They’re in disbelief that she’s travelling by herself. I got this reaction often too, & then when I returned, I was often told I was brave for going it alone.


All the solo travel selfies


Covered Bridges in Strasbourg


Solo drinks & planning

While I also love to travel with friends, I think it’s a completely different experience. (I’m really don’t mean to knock group travel! It has some serious merits too!) I’m sad that the prospect of travelling alone would deter someone from travel at all. Honestly, I feel they’re missing out. I hope perception around this is changing, but we clearly haven’t reached a point of normalization.


Prague Castle


Perouges, France


Silly self timer shot in Perouges

If that’s what’s keeping you from an experience, let me just say that you can do it. New experiences can seem daunting at first, but it won’t take long to adapt. Take the leap! I personally loved my experiences & found incredible freedom in the opportunity to do as I pleased. I loved wandering new cities with no real destination, sitting in cafes reading or writing, & taking as many photos as I wanted without worrying that I was holding someone up. It gave me time to figure out who I was on my own, which was invaluable.  & since I was mostly hostelling, I met people in the evenings & enjoyed the company of others when I wanted it.


Making friends in Munich


Ski day at Chamrousse


Lake Geneva

Have you ever travelled alone? Would you consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Living Abroad \ Journaling


I’ve always loved the physical act of writing. There’s something so cathartic about putting pen to paper that nothing else compares to. While I do keep an online calendar for some appointments & reminders, I still also keep a handwritten daytimer/journal. I find I remember things better if I write them down, but I also enjoy having my memories on paper.

The majority of my journaling has taken place while abroad. I’m a strong proponent of keeping some form of written account while travelling. Whether you jot down things you saw & did in point form or write a full account of your days, it’s both a wonderful keepsake & incredibly helpful when all those buildings in your photos start to look the same. It’s been huge for blogging about our honeymoon & remembering details a year later. I love looking back on them when I have a spare moment & they have the added bonus of jogging my memory when people ask for travel tips. Sure, there are moments I’d like to forget, but most of the time I look back & realize how much I’ve grown. & that’s a pretty cool thing to witness in yourself.

My favourite journal is the moleskine journal. I’ve given these beauties to many people before their trips & have a large collection myself. They’re durable, simple, relatively compact, & have a pocket for postcards, receipts, or tickets. I highly recommend them.

Whatever the journal you choose, I recommend taking a few minutes throughout your trip to sit down & jot down a few things. It doesn’t have to be a novel. You never have to show it to anyone else. It’s yours to do what you want with. I promise you won’t regret the keepsake or the memories.

Happy Travels, friends!

Honeymoon 016 \ Cinque Terre Uno


When I look back on our honeymoon, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favourite destination. Our trip was filled with incredible sights & wonderful memories. If I did make some kind of list though, Cinque Terre world certainly figure towards the top. This region combines everything I love most about travel : phenomenal food, breathtaking views, welcoming locals, & an array of activities to keep us from getting bored.

Cinque Terre literally means five lands. It consists of five villages along the rugged Italian coastline, in the region of Liguria: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, & Riomaggiore. I did a lot of research on the area before choosing the quietest (& perhaps least accessible) of the five towns, Corniglia, as our homebase. The laid-back, slower pace & central location appealed to me, but it’s not for the faint of heart. In order to reach the town’s centre, you’ll have to climb over 300 steps. Unlike the other four towns, Corniglia is also not accessible by boat. We found these traits added to the charm of the little village & allowed for much quieter evenings.


Training across Italy

After a day of train travel across Italy, we arrived in our small, seaside village quite late. The Italian train system was exactly how I remembered from my limited experience – usually late & a little bit quirky. Getting off the train in a new place after dark that night, I wasn’t so sure of our decision. Our late arrival meant the shuttle up the hill was no longer running. We were forced to walk up, enormous rolling suitcases in tow (I almost always travel with a backpack, but we decided to try to be a bit classier since we were cruising. I missed my backpack once we were off the ship). We decided to take the dark, winding road, crossing our fingers that it was the right direction. Luckily, we bumped into another couple who assured us we were on the right track.

The main square was pretty quiet when we finally reached it. A few diners lingered over their meals, tourists enjoyed a stroll for ice cream, & locals gathered for a chat. I love how squares are the heartbeat of most European towns & cities.

The grocer on the corner was still open, so we took the opportunity to ask for directions to our rental. Instead of pointing us to the building, he picked up the phone & called Lidia, the lady we were renting from. That’s how small Corniglia is. She pulled up a few minutes later & walked us over to our apartment, pointing out some of the things we’d need to know in the coming days. She only gave us a quick overview before sending us off to dinner before the restaurants closed for the night.

We chose a place on the main square & ordered some wine, trenette al pesto, & grilled fish. It was all delicious, especially after such a long day of travel. I really couldn’t get enough of that pesto. Afterwards, we bought a bottle of wine & had a couple glasses on our rooftop terrace, overlooking the little village & coastline.


I still dream about this pesto


our cute, little room


view of the square from our terrace

After a few additional tips from Lidia in the morning, we grabbed a nice, big breakfast & set out for the day. The two easiest hikes were unfortunately closed due to landslides in the area. Instead, we planned to do the more difficult (but free) ones. We started with the trail to Manarola, along the red line. Climbing further & further up the steep path, the view quickly became impressive. Once we’d almost reached the peak, we split off onto another trail to start our traverse. This part of the path was probably my favourite; I gushed over the many olive trees, lemon trees, & terraced vineyards. It was suddenly clear where the incredible, fresh flavours of everything we ate came from (their backyard, literally). We were surrounded by vines (some of the steepest vineyards I’ve ever seen) everywhere we looked. It was truly an incredible sight.






Corniglia from the trail




Beautiful, beautiful Corniglia




Terraced vines



Narrow path & vines on either side

Our descent into Manarola included over 1000 stairs & panoramic views of the village. I probably exclaimed, “this is so beautiful!” over 200 times. We followed our stomachs to a little restaurant in the heart of the village, grabbing a spot on their terrace. I decided to go for the grilled octopus & was not disappointed. It was the most tender octopus I’ve ever tasted. Like most of the food in Italy, simple & delicious, I never knew it could taste thate amazing. N went with the lobster spaghetti, which he thoroughly enjoyed (can you really go wrong with lobster?).






Manarola from the trail




Working our way down




I only remembered a photo halfway through so this doesn’t look like much, but trust me: the bomb.


Manarola features an incredible harbour, full of people sunbathing, swimming, & cliff jumping. We decided to join them & each jumped off about a ten foot cliff. It was scary at first, but once we got over the fear, it was so much fun. The water was the perfect temperature & I could have easily swam for a couple hours. We wanted to see Riomaggiore too though so we had to get back on the trail.




I loved watching them lower boats into the water







The town isn’t really that far, but with Via dell’ Amore close, it took about an hour to do the harder hike. Instead of a 25 minute walk on a paved pathway, we headed straight up the mountain (& I mean STRAIGHT up). It was pretty much 25 min up, a little break at the top, then 25 min back down. Once we got into the village, we grabbed a cone of mixed fried fish including calamari, white fish, crayfish, & whole anchovies. I wasn’t sure how I’d find the whole fish, but they wound up being my favourite part. Everything was delicious & tender, but those little anchovies stole the show. We bought a large beer from a grocery store & headed down to the rocks, enjoying the sun, sea, & a cold drink. We also picked up some pesto & a nice bottle of local wine before taking the train back to Corniglia.


I love these colourful little villages




Seafood cone – just do it.


Bringing his boat up for storage


Wine makes waiting for trains go much quicker


Sadly closed (still, a year later)

We caught the end of the sunset on the panoramic terrace in Corniglia. There’s a little bar that sets up tables & chairs there. We ordered a few appies – some tartines with pesto & anchovies, & cheese with honey – grabbed a couple glasses of wine, & watched the sunset. It was delicious.




Simple & delicious

Quickly changing for dinner, we decided to try a cute little spot in the centre. When we’d walked past the previous night, it was packed, so we figured it was a good bet. It turned out Osteria a Cantina de Mananan was a winner. Although, we were the last diners, our server didn’t rush us &, instead, made us feel welcome in every way.

We started our meal with some charcuterie, cheese, olives, & this surprisingly delicious quiche. I like quiche, but I never think that highly of it. This version was a total game changer. For our main course, we shared a huge bowl of spaghetti with shellfish. It had a slight spice & buttery sauce, with an incredible amount of fresh seafood. It was one of my favourite meals in Italy. I can’t recommend this spot enough. (After reading reviews, we lucked out in getting a table without a reservation. Look into booking ahead.)



We ended the day with another bottle of wine on our terrace. It was quickly becoming our favourite way to finish off the day.(How can you go wrong?)

I’ve been thinking about Cinque Terre since we left. I knew I loved France & that the cruise would be a great experience, but I wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels for Italy in the way that I did. I’ll recap our second, equally wonderful, day in Cinque Terre next time.


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