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Winter 2016/17: Let it Snow!

One of the first things you learn when moving to Vancouver is that the rest of the country doesn’t consider you quite as “Canadian” as they are. You don’t have to shovel snow, break ice or wrap up in temperatures that include bigger numbers below zero in the winter than we get above zero in the summer. We don’t get snow very often, but when we do the city tends to grind to a halt amid cries of ‘we never get snow!’. As someone who has only lived here for six years, I know that is not technically true. It was snowing as I got off the bus from the airport in January 2011 and it snowed again in November 2014, as proven by my instagram feed.

Saying that, I do agree that this winter’s snow has been particularly awesome/awful (depending on your reliance on public transit). The first snowfall was in early December and it stuck around long enough to make the city look beautiful…until it turned to slush.

A few days later, all anyone could talk about was the ‘snowmageddon’ that was predicted for the weekend. It was nice to have another smattering, but it wasn’t quite the blizzard that was expected. Still, we made the most of it.

The biggest snowfall came in mid-December and this time it did turn much of the city into a winter wonderland. Walking the dog was like something out of a movie as every area of open space was full of children making snowmen, dogs running around off the leash (shocking!) and snowboarders riding down the small slope to the beach. At was just before this snowfall that I ordered a new winter coat. As soon as I put it on I felt a bit stupid as Vancouver winters rarely call for anything more than a standard coat, however this fresh snowfall validated my purchase and kept me warm during all the morning dog walks.

The highlight of December was of course our annual pilgrimage to Mount Baker, WA where we celebrated Christmas with four days in a cabin. We were slightly nervous about the roads as we knew it had been snowing pretty hard down there, but we arrived safe and sound and enjoyed our whitest Christmas yet.

Vancouver was welcomed into 2017 by some more snow, which put a freeze (geddit?) on many people’s New Year’s Eve plans but did make for a pretty first dog walk of the year the morning after.

Unfortunately for me this week, what comes down then turns into a thick layer of ice that has left barely a sidewalk, road or path uncovered. I had an embarrassing (and only mildly painful) fall on the seawall this week, and the worst part was that I lost my apartment key during the process. D’oh! Those Vancouverites who are better at me than balancing on ice have been pictured skating on frozen streets and lakes in scenes that look like a Tim Horton’s commercial. Who’s Canadian now, eh?

There’s no more snow forecast for the next couple of weeks, which is probably a good thing as Vancouver has become somewhat of a joke on the national and international meme circuit. Either way, the weather has already done to justify my wearing of my new big coat for the rest of the winter. Which of course, is the most important thing.

 

When sexism sucks and Big Sisters rules

It’s been a weird couple of weeks for humans around the globe, and I think (or I hope) recent events have gotten most of us thinking about what we’re doing as individuals to combat sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and a whole bunch more ‘isms and ‘phobias that are unfortunately becoming a thing. I have everything crossed that the silver lining to 2016 is that we as a species look to our own communities and challenge ourselves to do what we can do be moral people, decent citizens and supporters of those who otherwise only have dangerous people to turn to.

I work with the not-for-profit sector by day, so it won’t surprise you that I’m passionate about the impact of individuals donating time, skills and knowledge to causes they care about. Aside from the the whole changing the world thing, volunteering is a great way of meeting new people, an awesome resume booster and a way to find that sense of purpose if you’re not lucky enough to have that in your day job. Plus, studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer, healthier lives (really).

Something that was always at the back of my mind when I moved to Canada was how and where I would volunteer. We all have causes we care about, and mine are homelessness, refugees, education and empowering women. Some of these causes I choose to donate money to and some I donate time. Sometime in early 2012 I went to trusty GoVolunteer.ca and saw an advert for the Big Sisters Study Buddy mentoring program. Education AND empowering a young girl? Sold.

When I was first matched with Angela in the fall of 2012, I was excited and nervous about to getting to know the slightly shy 12-year-old who had just started her final year of elementary school. Four years later, she’s an accomplished 16-year-old in her penultimate year of high school, and there are not enough words in the dictionary to describe how awesome she is. She’s strong, confident, generous, adventurous, independent, ambitious, curious, compassionate, brave and unapologetic. She loves animals more than you, she’s read just about every book at Oakridge library and she’s a crazy skateboarder who never wears a helmet but would do anything for the people she cares about (except wear a helmet). When she decides to do something, it happens.

Our relationship is defined in many ways by learning. The purpose of my role as a Study Buddy is that I spend one hour a week helping Angela with her homework, which is only getting harder for both of us as time goes on (grade 12 math is going to hurt). My time at school was a little too long ago for my liking, and I can categorically confirm that I’m learning along with her. The learning continues outside of the library. I took Angela hiking and she took me horseback riding. I taught her how to write up her resume and she taught me to use Snapchat. One day she’ll show me to do the dutch braid she wears so well and my life will be complete.

Angela’s also taught me the real, true, no-holds-barred reason why sexism is not OK. She’s going to graduate high school in summer 2018 and it’s so important to me that when she does, she knows that what she does for the rest of her life is solely up to her and nothing to do with her gender. She can do or be anything that the boys in her class can dream of. She’s not an object, an animal or a second class citizen and she’s more than the sum of her looks (though she is beautiful). She’s a damn force who made me cry writing this article and the world better watch out.

In this time of crazy mad f**king turmoil uncertainty, Angela has reminded me that there is a very real reason to get out of bed in the morning and make change happen. If I can play a tiny part in helping just one deserving girl achieve her dreams, that’s a steady but sure victory over sexism. She doesn’t even need to achieve her dreams if she doesn’t want to, she just needs to know in her heart and in her mind that she can.

If you identify as female and agree that sexism sucks, please consider joining one of the many Big Sister mentoring programs around the world and change a young girl’s life.

If you identify as male and agree that sexism sucks, please consider joining one of the many Big Brother mentoring programs around the world and help raise a generation of men who will fight for equality and will in turn change a young girl’s life.

Please.

P.S. Wherever you are in the world, there is no escape. Try Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland, Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters of London area, Big Brothers Big Sisters International or type ‘Big Sisters’ and the place you live into Google.

 

VIDEO: Highlights of the Northern Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast is my absolute happy place. The whole state is ridiculously amazing and we had a fantastic time exploring the Columbia River Gorge, Bend and Crater Lake last summer, but something about the coast always makes me feel like I’m coming home. The goonies-loving man says that Astoria in particular is his ‘spiritual home’ and getting out of the car at Rogue Brewery is when I know I’m really on vacation.

This year was our fifth consecutive BC Day long weekend trip to Oregon (sorry, BC) and we packed a lot into the three full days we had there. This particular trip was a mix of some of our favourite places (Astoria, Cannon Beach, Ecola State Park, Oswald West State Park, Cape Meares, Oceanside) and some new places too (Netarts Bay, Anderson’s Viewpoint, the top of the sand dune at Cape Kiwanda). As we only had three days we stuck to the Northern towns and split our time between the Hearthstone Inn at Cannon Beach and an Airbnb in Netarts Bay.

I decided to play videographer on this trip, partly to test out the video capabilities of my new iPhone 6S. It turns out the footage is scarily better than our previous videos using our little kodak camera (that I forgot on this trip). So that’s good to know. I love documenting snapshots in time through photo and video and before making this I watched a number of our older videos including our group trip to Hawaii, our first ever Christmas in Canada and our first year with Dave. It was a really fun and moving half hour or so, and I may have shed more than one happy tear looking back on some amazing memories.

So here’s another one to add to the list. I was videographer, director and producer for this one, which means I only actually make an appearance in front of the camera twice. However, if you like boston terriers, bearded men and beaches then please enjoy this Marmite to Maple production: Oregonna Make A Great Movie (tagline by James).

Talking about the Oregon coast is one of my favourite things in the world, so if you have any questions or are looking for trip planning advice, get in touch.

Cabin Fever: A spontaneous night in Anacortes

The May long weekend is the same weekend every year, but somehow it always seems to creep up on me. This year I forgot about it until a couple of weeks before, when a panicked Air BnB search revealed exactly two available pet-friendly properties within a reasonable distance and budget. Unfortunately they were both on the sunshine coast and the BC Ferries reservation system only showed how organized everyone else was at booking ferries in advance. Not helpful.

We decided to embrace our non-existent travel options and stay at home for a relaxing weekend in the city. After all, we’re supposed to be cutting back on trips this year and saving for the wedding. That’s what I told myself when I redid my Air BnB search just a few days before the weekend and this time came up with zero properties (didn’t fancy a trailer in a barn on Salt Spring Island).

Saturday morning came, and I decided that the man and I should write lists of possible things to do and then compare and come up with a super list to get us through the weekend. This exercise started well and we did enjoy some delicious Saturday night craft cocktails at Long Table Distillery, a gin and vodka tasting room a few blocks away that I’d never been to. Unfortunately this didn’t quite hit the spot, and we ended up doing another last minute search for a Sunday night getaway, this time on Hotels.com. I broadened my search to include the States and up popped Anacortes, a little harbour town in Western Washington that is known for being the launch point for ferries to the San Juan Islands. Google Maps said it was two hours away, TripAdvisor said there were some nice parks and viewpoints, Yelp said there was a decent coffee shop and a brewery and Hotels.com said there was a pet-friendly hotel right in the middle of the historic downtown. Done, done, done and done.

Anacortes turned out to be the perfect destination for a one-night getaway. It actually took closer to three hours to get there (apparently the rest of Vancouver decided to head down to the border at the same time as us) but we’d somehow left on time for once so weren’t in any rush. We stayed at the gorgeous Majestic Inn and Spa where we were given freshly ground coffee and a complimentary dog goodie bag on arrival. We saw and did a surprising amount in 24 hours and my highlights are below.

Washington Park

Washington Park is a bit like a much smaller version of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. It juts out on the end of the peninsula and is just a 10 minute drive from Downtown Anacortes. We parked in the day use area and walked the tree-lined, 2-mile loop road around the outside of the park (you can drive it, but the sun was out and it’s an easy walk). We took the opportunity to explore some of the trails that branched off the main road and the spectacular views of the San Juan Islands made up for the very confusing, completely unmarked trails. Dogs are welcome on a leash and Dave very much enjoyed his walk.

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La Merced

While I was driving us to Washington Park, James saw what looked like a huge old ship growing out of the ground and sprouting trees. On the way back we took a number of very sketchy tracks down to the marina before finding what actually was a huge old ship that was practically growing out of the ground and definitely sprouting trees. A local drinking beer on the marina’s tiny beach told us that the La Merced was a Schooner that ran aground in the 1970s and was salvaged by the Croatian owners of the marina. They filled it with sand and turned it into their breakwater. It was pretty spooky looking and worth the abrupt roadside stop.

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The Brown Lantern Ale House

The downside of travelling with a dog during spring is that it’s rarely warm enough to eat outside and be 100% comfortable. We got very lucky on this trip as we found a pub with a pet-friendly, heated beer garden that was so good we went for both lunch and dinner. Dinner was a particularly awesome experience full of unexpected local flavour. From the excitable man who greeted us with ‘Oh you’re English? What’s the difference between afters and dessert?’ and the inebriated lady spending the night in a wheelchair after losing a dare to the woman who tried to prove James can look good in a hat (she failed) and the guy who whipped out a parrot from under his hoodie after half an hour of conversation, it was one of the most welcoming places I’ve ever been. The deep fried mac and cheese wedges weren’t half bad either.

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Cap Sante Viewpoint

This little viewpoint is a 5 minute drive out of the historic district and gave us a great view of Anacortes. This is where most of the pictures of Anacortes that are on postcards and guidebooks were taken, so it was fun to see that in person. You don’t even need to get out of the car to see the view if you don’t want to, though I recommend a quick climb on the rocks.

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Deception Pass Bridge

Deception Pass State Park is only 20 minutes from Anacortes and was highly recommended on TripAdvisor, however we didn’t have enough time to explore to justify the $20 entry fee. Instead, we stuck to the highway and drove through the middle of the park to see what is actually two bridges that connect Fidalgo Island (where Anacortes is – not technically an island) with Whidbey Island. There is a little island right in the middle with free parking and a viewpoint with a plaque explaining how Capt. George Vancouver ‘discovered’ and named the area (he gets around). Here you can take the steps down and under the bridge, or walk across if you’re not terrified of heights and/or carrying a squirming Boston Terrier.

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Mount Eerie

The final sight on our list was the top of Mount Eerie, another easy to access viewpoint with a road running right up to the top (you can also hike up from the bottom if you’re feeling energetic). The views were stunning and the windy drive up the switchbacks was well worth the 10 minute detour on the way back from Deception Pass.

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Even though we were only in Anacortes for 24 hours, we did and saw a lot and felt like we were on a proper vacation. I’m a particularly intense travel planner, so for me there’s something so special about a spontaneous, last-minute trip where everything just falls into place. I would almost go as far as to say I enjoyed this get away more than our trip to California in April (no tattoos this time though). It was the perfect way to spend a long weekend.

Sun, Sand and Vacation Tattoos

I definitely have two sides to my personality. One side is incredibly organized, always plans ahead and won’t go anywhere or do anything without reading reviews on both TripAdvisor and Yelp (and then cross-referencing the two). The other side is spontaneous and impulsive and likes to annoy the first side by doing things like making irresponsible expensive purchases, going skydiving and getting vacation tattoos….apparently.

The few weeks after getting my first tattoo last year were pretty much solely devoted to planning my next one, and the one after that, and the one after that. I decided not to book anything (I’ve learned to recognize when I should ignore the spontaneous side) and the moment passed. 13 months later, I still had only the one tattoo. Then I went on vacation to Southern California.

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Hermosa Beach, my tatto-spiration!

On our last night in Hermosa Beach, the man and I went out for some late night drinks in an awesome ‘locals’ bar, and half a cider later I’d decided that I needed to have the outline of a wave etched into my left rib. The tattoo on my wrist features the city and the mountains so something representing the beach could be seen as a natural and logical addition, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what I was thinking. I honestly can’t remember how I ended up reading Yelp reviews of tattoo shops, but there we were at Hermosa Ink & Apparel just after their 11am opening time the following morning.

It was here that my commitment to spontaneity started to waiver slightly. We arrived at the store literally seconds behind another customer (she held the door open for me) who was going in to book an appointment for a later date, but ended up deciding to have her tattoo done there and then. This meant it would be a 45 minute wait for us. I initially said no and left in a mini-strop, angry that I hadn’t listened to the organized side of my personality which told me to get there at 11am on the dot. Instead, the spontaneous side suggested we go for a walk on the beach, making us 2 seconds later than the other girl and potentially meaning that we wouldn’t have time to get the tattoo because we were supposed to be in Santa Barbara by lunch. Maybe it was a sign that this wasn’t meant to be? The man convinced me that there are no such things as signs (and there aren’t, unless I want there to be) and that Santa Barbara would still be there an hour later, so I went back in and booked my appointment for 12pm. That gave us half an hour to sit in the bar next door and practice drawing a wave. It’s harder than it sounds. Luckily, the tattoo artist, Olivia, was infinitely better at drawing than I am (of course) so nothing I drew ended up anywhere near getting permanently inked on my body.

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The result!

Olivia was great and it was a very quick tattoo. It hurt more than the one on my wrist, which I was expecting with my ribs, but it was over much quicker. It lasted just long enough for the man to decide that he wanted in on the vacation tattoo bandwagon too! I thought this display of spontaneity was a little excessive, partly because this was his first tattoo and mostly because it was on his hand! Before I could feel guilty for peer pressuring him into it, his was finished too and he absolutely loved it.

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Weirdly enough, we both got water themed tattoos, though in NO way was this one of those ‘couples’ tattoo things. Saying that, I will always think of Hermosa Beach and of him whenever I look at my left rib, which is kind of cool.

Three weeks on, I still love my little wave. The main reason that this tattoo was an easy decision for me is that it’s always covered up, so I’ve barely seen it since it was done. I learned last time that a placement of a tattoo is important not because of what others might think when they see it, but what YOU might think when you see it. I cannot escape my wrist tattoo, which was incredibly overwhelming when I was first getting used to it. It is always in the corner of my eye. Luckily I still like it, but it taught me a lesson that even my spontaneous side will never forget. This time I didn’t have that concern as I’ll only see it when wearing a bikini (when my tattoo will be the least of my worries), so in the words of half-a-cider-Lizzie, ‘why not?’

New Year, New Vacation Plan

January and I have never really gotten along. My birthday is 11 days before Christmas, so December has always had double the excitement and celebrations than if I was born in any other month of the year. I’ve travelled somewhere for the last five Christmases (back to England and also to the winter wonderland that is Mount Baker) which just makes coming home and facing January that much harder. Every year I swear that I’m going to book a trip at the end of January, just so I have something to look forward to. Every year I then realize that I have in fact spent all of my money on December. So every year starts with a blank calendar and an empty bank account. Turns out January isn’t for vacations, it’s for vacation planning.

In case you didn’t already know, I really, really like planning vacations. A trip just wouldn’t be as fun without the weeks (or months) of anticipation and preparation leading up to it.  I generally always have something to look forward to, which is why January 2016 threw me a little bit.

The big wedding savings plan begins this month (date is set for August 2017, yay!), and I’m trying this radical new thing of only spending money that I have instead of putting vacations on credit cards. This means that most of the new places I wanted to go this year (Kauai, Costa Rica, Cuba) are now out of budget. It also means I’ll hopefully have an amazing honeymoon to look forward to at the end of next year, so I can skip the more exotic destinations this year. After a month of panicking about having nothing booked, we talked about what we really enjoy doing on vacation. Turns out, we’ve already been to some pretty amazing places that we’d like to see again. So this year’s vacation plan looks a little like this:

March – Mount Baker

Technically, this is the one trip that’s to somewhere new. We’ve been to the Mount Baker area for Christmas for the past three years, but never actually made it to the mountain (though we got really, really close in 2015). We’re heading up with friends for a ski weekend in March and I can’t wait! The chairlifts at Mount Baker don’t have safety bars, so fingers crossed I survive and make it through the rest of this list. 

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The closest to Mount Baker I’ve been so far. Can’t wait to change that next month!

March – Seattle

I really, really, really loved my last trip to Seattle. We broke out of downtown and spent most of our weekend in the breweries, bars and coffee shops of Capitol Hill and Ballard. We’re going to go back and do it over again in March, this time with our amazing best friends and former Hawaii travel companions. We haven’t been away together since that trip in February 2012, and I can’t wait to go be hipsters together.

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Downtown Seattle from Capitol Hill

April – California Coast

After uming and ahing over where to go in the spring, we booked an extra long weekend in California that includes all of our favourite things: driving, the beach and small towns with great coffee. We’re staying in Hermosa Beach for three nights and then driving up to Santa Barbara for our final night (new destination!). I stopped by Hermosa Beach on a post-Coachella road-trip last year and loved it so much that I decided I was going to move there for three months this summer. Little did I know I was about to get engaged and start saving for a wedding, so that didn’t happen. But three nights is better than nothing!

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A cloudy (but warm!) Hermosa Beach on my Coachella 2015 trip!

August – Oregon Coast

Speaking of driving, the beach and small towns with great coffee…we’re heading back to Oregon for our August long weekend tradition. Last year we headed inland along the Columbia River Gorge and down to Bend which was so much fun, but this year I am dying to get back the coast to this stunning view:

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Take me back!

December – New York

Our first vacation together was to New York in December 2008, and we’ve been talking about going back for a couple of years now. Eight years later we’re so much better at vacations. We know what we like to do (eat food), where we like to go (neighbourhoods outside of downtown) and what kind of activities we like to do (food again). Our last trip was amazing but I think that we’d have a very different experience this time. And I never did get to ice skate in Central Park.

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Posing in a very snowy Central Park (so snowy the ice rink closed)

There it is. A year of going back to places we know and love, just with a different spin. And now I can get back to my 18 months of honeymoon planning…

Joffre Lakes: Hiking Canada’s Turquoise Waters

When I first decided to move to Canada, I did the obligatory google image search to see what might await me. You may have even done it yourself. If you haven’t, do it now. Once you scroll down past the maple leaves and country maps, the first picture of the Canadian landscape is a beautiful lake with stunning turquoise waters, flanked by a glistening white glacier. The picture you’re looking at is probably Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada’s most famous of the turquoise lakes. The unique colour of the water is caused by glacial erosion of bedrock which results in tiny particles of rock, known as rock flour. When rock flour runs down into a glacial lake, it turns the water that unbelievably vivid shade of turquoise; a far cry from the mostly murky waters of the United Kingdom.

The beautiful Lake Louise...where I haven't been yet!

The beautiful Lake Louise…where I haven’t been yet!

I haven’t made it to Lake Louise yet (though it’s been on ‘the list’ every year!), but I did round off the last long weekend of the summer with a day trip to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, just East of Pemberton. It was a toss up between Joffre Lakes and Garibaldi Lake (just South of Whistler) and Joffre Lakes won due to it being one of the only dog-friendly provincial parks in the Whistler area (of course Dave hiked too). It was a three hour drive to Joffre Lakes and it started to rain as we pulled into the parking lot. We considered turning around and heading to the nearest coffee shop, but decided to push on and see how it went. I’m so glad we did. Lower Joffre Lake, the first of three, is easily accessible just a few minutes walk away from the car park. I couldn’t believe how little effort was required to see so much turquoise! Apparently, neither could one very brave camper who went for a swim in the mist. We decided against it (d’uh), and returned to the main trail.

Ready...set...hike!

Ready…set…hike!

Our first views of turquoise through the mist of Lower Lake

Our first views of turquoise through the mist of Lower Lake

Read More…

The Day My Brother Moved to Canada!

Today has been an exciting day. My little brother arrived in Vancouver…to live! Chris (my brother) and his girlfriend, Holly, came to visit me during my first summer here in 2011, and loved Vancouver so much that they decided to move here too. The minor fact that Holly was born in Canada, and is the proud owner of a new Canadian passport, also featured heavily in their decision to head to the West Coast. Chris was not so lucky, and had to go through the arduous process of applying for an IEC visa when they (finally) opened in February. This is the same visa that I applied for three years in a row, however this year’s process was unfortunately much more complex. Even so, he received his visa in early April and they made the big decision to quit their jobs, move out of their apartment, and jump on a plane. I went to meet them at the airport armed with a jumbo Canadian flag and matching sunglasses/springy-headband-thing. Their flight landed early, Chris was the only one in line for immigration, and they’re now safely in my apartment until they move into their first of two summer sublets next week.

Fresh off the plane, and complete with dollar store accessories!

Fresh off the plane, and complete with dollar store accessories!

Whenever I tell people that my brother is moving out to live in Canada, the first question I receive is ‘don’t you mind?’ I don’t think he will be offended if I admit that the first time I heard the idea I was a little unsure. Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, they walked into mine. However much I tried to pretend that ‘this is my life, not yours’, I was really excited to have another member of my family living in the same country as me for the first time in two and a half years, and the first city as me in more than eight. I was able to help him prepare by answering questions, doling out reassuring advice (or sometimes not) and viewing apartments on this behalf. Chris’ visa runs out in June 2014, though they’re hoping to stay much longer than that. It’s nice to know that someone else will get to experience everything I love about Vancouver, and at least we’ll be together for our first Christmas away from Mum and Dad.

A Hawaiian Adventure: 6 Nights in Ohau

DISCLAIMER: Before writing this post, and even during, I struggled working out what ‘type’ of article I was actually writing. Now I’m done I’m still not sure. It’s not a travel piece, or a ‘highlight of Hawaii’ piece, or a ‘top ten lists’ piece. Instead, it’s a fairly long description of our 6 night vacation for anyone who is interested in a) what we actually got up to, or b) going to Oahu themselves and seeing what can be achieved in 6 nights. You have been warned.

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I literally couldn’t sleep at all the week before my first trip to Hawaii this month. I was just. so. excited! This trip was the result of one too many drinks on Halloween last year, and myself, the manfriend and two amazing friends L and D were looking forward to a week in the sun together. Work has been pretty crazy recently, so it was nice to take the day off and get the most relaxing mani-pedi with L. I spent my evening packing mine and manfriend’s clothes into one 18kg suitcase; a feat we only just managed. We were ready to go!

Day 1: Travelling

Honolulu is only a 6 hour flight from Bellingham, WA (just across the border from Vancouver) but the timing of the flight and the buses resulted in a very long day. We left Downtown Vancouver at 12pm on the Quick Shuttle ($25 each way), arrived at the airport at 2:15pm, and waited in the little coffee shop until check in opened at 4pm. Bellingham airport is so small that they can only check in passengers for one flight at a time due to the size of their luggage room! Once we were through security we could relax in the bar and fill up on a burger and yam fries before boarding our air Air Allegiant plane (flights were $159.99 each way!). When we arrived it was 10pm Hawaii time (12pm PST) and we jumped in our pre-booked Star Taxi to Waikiki, which was about 30 minutes and only $30. By the time we’d dropped our cases in our rented apartment there was just enough time to run to the local ABC Store for some snacks before heading to bed.

The view from our lanai (balcony)

The view from our lanai (balcony)

Day 2: Waikiki Beach

We woke up early to bright sunshine and the most amazing view of green mountains and tall skyscrapers from the lanai (balcony). Our first proper meal in Oahu was the plentiful and delicious breakfast buffet at Duke’s. YUM. After heading back to the apartment to get our beach gear and slather on sunscreen, we found a quiet spot on the far West side of the beach to set up camp. The beach wasn’t anywhere as busy or touristy as I expected it to be, and it was so relaxing to be able to read a book on the sand.

www.marmitetomaple_waikikibeach

The famous Waikiki Beach

The relaxation lasted for a couple of hours before it was time to head out for some grocery shopping. My feet were already hurting from my flip-flops by this point (which I hadn’t worn in months!) so we decided to get a taxi to the nearest Safeway, about 10 minute away. We loaded up a shopping cart with bread, salad bits, fruit, yogurt, snacks and a frozen cocktail or two, and after a bit of a wait managed to drag it all back to the apartment. The prices weren’t as cheap as you’d expect in the continental US, but compared to Vancouver we were happy! After a quick shower we were ready for our first proper night out in Hawaii! Our first stop was the beach to watch the sunset over the ocean, which was a pretty awesome sight. Next up we were back at Duke’s, our breakfast spot, for some of the best cocktails I’ve ever tasted. I particularly recommend the strawberry daiquiris! We wanted to watch the free fireworks that I’d read about in the guidebook, and we heard they started at 7:30pm round the corner from Duke’s. As we heard the first bang we headed over to watch, but three minutes later the display had ended before we’d even arrived! So much for the free entertainment. Waikiki has a main ‘strip’ with all the bars and restaurants on it, and most of them were full by the time we were ready for dinner at 8pm. We settled on the Cheesecake Factory for it’s huge portions, and my mountain of a Cobb Salad and White Chocolate, Caramel & Macadamia Nut Cheesecake (well, I was in Hawaii!) was a great way to finish our first day.

Sunset from Waikiki Beach

Sunset from Waikiki Beach

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2013: Keeping Things Simple

2013 is a new year, and with every new year comes new year’s resolutions. This year I’ve cut my list down to six things I’d like to focus on and I’ve kept them relatively simple. I’m not a big fan of odd numbers, so I’m slightly anxious about being 25 in 2013. Here’s hoping that my weird phobia is just that…weird and unnecessary. 

1. Drink less diet coke

Those of you who know me are well aware that I’m not a big alcoholic drinker, though this isn’t always the healthy choice when the alternative is pints of sugary rubbish. Last year I gave up regular coke for diet coke, though the North American tradition of free refills means that I’ll often get through four or five glasses of the bad stuff in an evening. Granted; most of each glass is ice, but the aspartame (E961) still adds up. This year I’m going to cut down even more and switch my diet coke for soda water & cranberry juice. It’s nowhere near as sweet, but I know I can condition myself to get used to it. If you see me out in a bar, please check my glass!

2. See more of Canada

This resolution might look familiar, as it took pride of place on last year’s list. I didn’t meet my goal of visiting the Rockies in 2012, but I’m hoping to get there this year. I’m also committing to making the most of my transit pass and exploring Greater Vancouver more. This part should be slightly easier than travelling across the country and will make sure I discover what’s on my doorstep.

3. Document my year with pictures

I was lucky enough to receive a brand new camera from Santa this year, and I can’t wait to put it to good use. What better excuse to get out in the fresh air and see the city and country I live in? I’d love to learn more about how to use my new toy properly, so I’ll look into some lessons for both taking and editing photos. Stay tuned for some new images in 2013!

Image

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