Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Rockies (the beginning)

On Thursday 31st May we set on our next adventure with Moose Tours ... the Rockies. The trip had quite an eventful start. A small group of us were picked up from our hostel at Jericho Beach, followed by a much larger group near the Samesun hostel in downtown Vancouver. The bags were being loaded into the back of the bus, and once the last one was put in we were off. Unfortunately our tour guide (Anglea) had forgotton to secure the back door properly, and we managed to travel a number of blocks before someone came running to the bus and told us it was open. The bus pulled over and almost everyone jumped out to see if their bag was still there. We counted all but 2. We headed back to our point of departure to search for the missing bags. As the bus had been parked outside a hotel we were able to go in and request to see their cctv footage. We could see the bags had fallen out as soon as the bus took off ... not long after a car pulled over to move the bags from the road, then a couple of homeless men took them. We searched the bins around the area to see if they had taken what they wanted and then dumped them, but there were no bags in sight. After 2 hours and still no bags we decided it was time to get back on the road. One of the girls with a missing bag stayed behind whilst the other came with us (she did have another bag on her so all was not lost). Our first stop on the tour ... Kelowna.
Kelowna (in the Okanagon) is a small city with a big wine industry. The climate is semi-arid, much like Kamloops. Jemma and I were hoping to sample some local wines when we arrived but unfortunately we didn't get the opportunity. We arrived 2 hours behind schedule (around 5PM) and everyone had dinner at the hostel. After that, most of the group went to the local bowling alley for a couple of games of 10 pin bowling. By the time we finished it was around 10PM and I was tired after a long day so I went to bed. Plus we were leaving Kelowna early the next day.

So that was my time in Kelowna ... a hostel and a bowling alley!!

Saturday, June 23, 2012


Tuesday the 29th of May saw us joining "Moose Tours" for an overnight trip to Whistler.  The group was small, with 8 tourists (including a Japanese family of 3) and our tour guide Alana.  The tour commenced with a drive through Stanley Park including a stop at the totem poles.  We then headed along the sea to sky highway stopping at Shannon Falls, Squamish, Alice Lake (for lunch), and Brandywine Falls.  Highlight of the drive up there ... seeing a black bear on the side of the highway!!!

We arrived in Whistler that afternoon, and after spending a short time in Whistler village Alana took us to our accommodation for that night, the HI-Whistler (around 7km outside the village).  The hostel was rather new, having been built for the athletes of the 2010 winter olympic games.  It certainly was a nice hostel.  After dinner, Jemma, myself, Alana, and Ed (another tour mate) went back to the village for some drinks at the bar.  We started the night off with a bang ... tequila shots all around, followed by jager bombs and pornstars (the drink that is!).  The four of us then played a few games of darts ... I decided to make the game a little more "interesting" by suggesting the loser by everyone a shot.  Unfortunately that meant Jemma and I were buying shots for the night!!  After the bar we wandered the village and came across a place called the Amsterdam Cafe.  It was small, cramped with people, and loud ... seemed like a great place to go!!  They were still serving food so we grabbed some poutine (cheese and gravy covered fries - very Canadian) and even more drinks.  We stayed for about an hour and by 2AM we decided to call it a night.

We spent most of the following day in Whistler doing whatever we wanted to do.  Jemma and I decided to save some money by doing something free - walking trails.  We walked around for a few hours and then headed back to the village.  We walked past the Crystal Lodge where I had stayed on my first visit to Whistler in 2007 ... Jemma and I went inside and decided to rest on the couches in the reception area.  We ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours!!  Soon enough we met up with the rest of the tour group and headed back to Vancouver.  On the way back we had the opportunity to go bungee jumping.  Now, this has always been on the cards for me, but the thought of going that day (slightly hungover) left me rather nauseous - I declined.

By the time we got back to Vancouver it was 6PM and Jemma and I had dinner plans with a friend (Abby) who had been on our NT Contiki trip 5 years ago.  The 3 of us had dinner at Steelworks in Gastown, and Abby suggested we must try a very Canadian cocktail called a Caesar.  She didn't tell us what was in it and when I tasted it it was horrible ... I told her I thought it "wasn't bad" (Jemma felt the same).  Turns out it contains vodka, Clamato (a blend of tomato juice and clam broth), hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.  Abby said we'd have to go back to Oz and tell all our friends about it ... I think I'd tell them NOT to order it if they ever visited Canada haha.  The night seemed to fly by and before I knew it it was time to say goodbye.  It was great catching up with Abby and I hope to see her again someday!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Last days in Vancouver

Ok, time to get this blog up and running again! May 25th was my last day at RC ... although I'm excited to travel and eventually head back to Oz, I was quite surprised at just how difficult it was to leave the friends I made as well as the city itself. I really do love this place!! I'm sure I'll visit again some day :)
After saying goodbye to my work mates I headed out to the airport to meet with Jemma. I was so happy that it was such a warm and sunny day ... I've been bragging to Jemma about Vancouver and I would hate for her first day here to be pouring with rain (note: her flight arrived early and I arrived late - what a bad start for this tour guide!!). After a quick stop at my place we headed downtown for photos with the steam clock in Gastown, followed by dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory. Being that we're nearing summer it was still very light, so after dinner we headed down to Canada Place to watch the sea planes take off. I don't know what it is but I think it's pretty cool to watch planes take off and land on the water!! After that I took Jemma to one of the BEST places to get views of downtown Vancouver - the Empire Landmark's revolving restaurant, Cloud 9. Plenty of photos were taken and plenty of cocktails were had ... it was a great start to a month and a half long adventure.

Like any good tour guide in Vancouver would know, you cannot miss out on showing a visitor the SPECTACULAR parks this city has to offer. Our first stop ... the Queen Elizabeth Park! I really enjoy coming here - the gardens are well maintained, and from the highest point you get some great views of downtown Vancouver. To top it all off, it's FREE! Jemma and I spent the morning here and then took the bus downtown to explore Vancouver's #1 park (#1 attraction for that matter), Stanley Park. The seawall, the walking trails, the aquarium, the totem poles, the beaches, the lost lagoon, the wildlife ... I LOVE Stanley Park!! I think one of the best things to do here is hire a bike and ride the seawall (takes about 1hr without stops). It was such a nice day so Jemma and I did just that. I think the rest of Vancouver felt the same because there were so many cyclists and rollerbladers out and about (or as the Canadians would say, "aboot"). We managed to bike the seawall twice :)

Although a little sore from yesterday's bike ride, Jemma and I put on our trackies and walking shoes and headed to the north shore to tackle "Nature's Stairmaster"... the Grouse Grind!! The weather had turned a little cooler and the sun was nowhere in sight - this actually made for a perfect day beacause, as anyone who has ever tackled the Grouse Grind knows, it doesn't take long before you're huffing and puffing and sweating in places you didn't know you could sweat. You really don't want the sun to be out!! Fortunately for us it wasn't too busy so it was easy to stop and rest ... we did exactly that before finally making it to the top!! It was great to still see some snow on top of the mountain. After a quick bite to eat we went exploring and headed up on the ski lift to the most northern point on Grouse that you can get. We got some spectacular views of Vancouver and we could could see as far as the airport at Richmond. After that we headed back downtown and met up with Sarah (my housemate) for a delicious dinner at Rouge.

Monday was my last full day in Vancouver. After getting some fantastic weather over the past few days, Vancouver did what it does best ... it rained!! It rained hard. Perhaps it was crying for me?? Haha. Regardless of how the weather was, it didn't stop Jemma and I from making the most of our last day here. We headed downtown (as usual) and spent the morning shopping on Robson St. We both picked up some great tops from Roots (so Canadian!) then headed across the bridge to Granville Island. Our first stop was the Granville Island brewery. We were lucky enough to pick up some cheap tickets and enjoy the Granville Island brewery tour followed by beer tastings (the best part!). For someone who doesn't drink beer that often, I actually enjoyed what the brewery had to offer. After the tour we visited a few more shops and then left to go back to my place for dinner across the road with my landlords, Rita and Sam (and Carolyn and Sarah too). Rita and Sam are both Italian, so as you can imagine the food and wine was plentyful that night!! It was a fantastic way to end my time in Vancouver, and I'll miss them very much.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodbye USA

Left New Orleans on Saturday night. There's so much more to NOLA than just the French Quarter/Bourbon Street and I wish I could have stayed there much longer. Had my flight to Canada not been booked I would have done just that!

Kerry and I were back at the USA Hostel in Hollywood for our last two days in America. Went to the Whiskey and Viper Room on Sunday night, and then saw Steel Panther at the Key Club on Monday night. The Steel Panther show was crazy - I have never seen anything like it (and I don't think I ever will). We also managed to fit in a couple of tours during the day. First was a walking tour around Bel Air and Beverly Hills, where we saw a ton of celebrity homes (including the Playboy Mansion and the house that Michael Jackson died in) and then we finished up on Rodeo Drive. Second was a tour of the Warner Bros. studios in Burbank (someone we met in San Diego had suggested doing this). Excellent tour!!! I have a photo of myself sitting on the Central Perk couch used in Friends (will post later)...

And now I'm sitting at LAX ready to say goodbye to sunny LA and hello to cold Vancouver.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Well I am stuffed! Today is Thanksgiving and our hostel had a free lunch full of turkey, chicken, roast vegies, pumpkin and pecan pie, which we had in the backyard. It felt like Christmas day to me. The weather was warm and everyone shared drinks and travel stories. I have no clue where the afternoon went...

French Quarter & Tipitina's

Travelled by streetcar down Canal Street (same as San Francisco's cable car but much cheaper at $1.25) and visited the French Quarter yesterday. This is the oldest neighbourhood in New Orleans and it's a very touristy area. I had a delicious shrimp creole for lunch on Bourbon Street. I LOVE Bourbon Street - it's full of bars, restaurants and shops, and there are no dry zones so you're allowed to drink anywhere you like (in fact the whole of New Orleans is like that). I would love to be here during a festival, I just think it would be so much fun! Kerry and I spent most of the afternoon in the French Quarter, browsing in shops on both Bourbon and Royal streets. So many of them sell Mardi Gras beads and Voodoo dolls. I didn't buy anything.

Further north of the French Quarter is the oldest cemetery in New Orleans, the Saint Louis Cemetery #1. The cemeteries in New Orleans have always been tourist attractions - the above ground tombs make them unique from most others. We were told not to go on our own because the #1 cemetery is located next to a violent public housing project and muggings/assaults are common within the cemetery grounds. Kerry and I used common sense (i.e. we went together, we didn't have our purses on show) and we were fine. I thought the place was fascinating - I loved it! Many famous people are buried there (including Voodoo practictioner Marie Laveau).

Later that night we went to a bar called Tipitina's in uptown New Orleans. One of the girls in our hostel (Anna) was going there to see Anders Osborne (a rock/blues musician) and asked if Kerry and I wanted to come along. What a fun night!!! Anders and his band played some awesome southern rock for over two hours. Then, to top it all off, they invited a special guest to play guitar on a few songs...turned out to be Pepper Keenan!!! (he plays in the bands Corrosion of Conformity and Down). I love Down so I was stoked to see him up there. I was buzzing!!!!!!!!! After the show finished around 2am, Anna, Kerry and I went to a cafe for some beignet. Anna was driving back to Iowa that morning so she wanted to have some before she left (she'd been bragging about this dessert so I thought I'd try some too). Beignet is a deep fried dough covered in powdered sugar. Very yummy - a great way to end the night.