Travel Tuesday: Bora Bora

Today’s Travel Tuesday post is another one about somewhere I want to go. I have not had the luxury of visiting Bora Bora yet, but you can bet your ass I will get there one day. No matter the cost (there’s still a black market for organs right?). Have you ever seen a more magical, beautiful or romantic looking place? Sigh. I could look at photos of this island all day. Has anyone been? Is it as gorgeous as the photos look?

Bora Bora is a French Polynesian island in the Pacific Ocean. It is located about 230 kilometers northwest of Papeete and is surrounded by a lagoon and a barrier reef. In the center of the island are the remnants of an extinct volcano rising to two peaks, Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu.

Pora Pora – the ancient name, meaning “first born,” came from legends describing this as the first island to rise when Taaroa, the supreme god, fished it out of the waters after the mythical creation of Havai’i, now known as Raiatea. Although the first letter “B” does not exist in the Tahitian language, when Captain Cook first heard the name he mistook the softened sound of the Tahitian “P” for “B” and called the island Bola Bola.

Perfect white-sand beaches give way to emerald waters where colored fish animate the coral gardens as they greet the giant manta rays. This could be easily be described as the center of the romantic universe, where luxury resorts and spas dot the island with overwater bungalows, thatched roof villas and fabled ambience.

Bora Bora offers:

  • Enchantment from the neon-lit turquoise lagoon waters with unending days of exploration through snorkeling and diving. Many species of sharks and rays inhabit the surrounding body of water.
  • Excitement above the lagoon by outrigger canoe, Boston Whaler, wave runner, jet ski, and dramatic sunset cruises aboard a catamaran sailboat.
  • Exploration of the panoramic overlooks found by hike or 4×4 accompanied by entertaining local guides.
  • Discovery of the world-renowned shopping for local and international original art, Tahitian pearls, perfumes and oils, and precious wood handcrafts.


Travel Tuesday: The Colloseum, Rome

Good morning! For my Travel Tuesday post today I will be showing you photos of the Colosseum. Like Paris, Rome has too much to offer to try and condense into one post, so I’ll be splitting it up. I’ve been to Rome three times now (2004, 2006 and 2010) and I’ve loved it every time. I find the Colosseum fascinating. Its construction started in 72 AD and was completed in 80 AD. Just consider the history for a moment. The fact that this piece of history is still standing is just incredible.

Originally known as the Flavian Amphitheater, the Colloseum was the largest building of the era. In its glory days,  the Colosseum was able to seat 50,000 spectators for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology. The building ceased to be used for entertainment in the early medieval era. It was later reused for such purposes as housing, workshops, quarters for a religious order, a fortress, a quarry, and a Christian shrine. Although today it stays partially ruined because of damage caused by devastating earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome. It is one of Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church, as each Good Friday the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession that starts in the area around the Colosseum.

 This monument is really a site to be seen. I love history and having the opportunity to visit a place with so much was an exciting experience.


Travel Tuesday: Bali, Indonesia

Today’s Travel Tuesday post is about an island I want to visit, but have not yet….Bali.

Bali, the famed Island of the Gods, is an Indonesian island located in the westernmost end of the Lesser Sunda Islands, lying between Java to the west and Lombok to the east. With its varied landscape of hills and mountains, rugged coastlines and sandy beaches, lush rice terraces and barren volcanic hillsides all providing a picturesque backdrop to its colourful, deeply spiritual and unique culture, Bali stakes a serious claim to be paradise on earth.

Bali is small in size; you can drive around the entire coast in one day. It has world-class surfing and diving, a large number of cultural, historical and archaeological attractions, and an enormous range of accommodations. Words don’t do Bali justice however, you have to see pictures to feel its magic. I can’t wait to visit this island one day; it is most definitely on my hit list!

Travel Tuesday: Banff, Alberta

Better late than never, as promised, here is a Travel Tuesday post on my trip to Banff, Alberta. I love Banff. Growing up in Alberta I spent many summer and winter vacations in the mountains—Banff, Jasper, the Kootenays. The Rocky Mountains are beautiful. Massive, snowy and exhilarating. The town of Banff, is a quaint, picture perfect little resort town nestled in this mass expanse of seemingly never ending mountains. Some of the notable mountain peaks surrounding Banff are Mount Rundle, Sulphur Mountain, Mount Norquay, and Cascade Mountain.

Banff is one of Canada’s most popular tourist destinations, known for its mountainous surroundings and hot springs. It is a destination for outdoor sports and features extensive hiking, biking, scrambling and skiing areas such as Sunshine Village, Ski Norquay and Lake Louise Mountain Resort, all within the national park.

Did you know, Banff was founded in 1883, by three Canadian Pacific railway workers, who discovered the natural hot springs now known as the Cave and Basin. This natural attraction soon resulted in the Federal Government setting aside this and surrounding land as a Federal Reserve named the Rocky Mountain Parks. The town on Banff was soon to follow, named after Banffshire in Scotland, the birthplace of two Canadian Pacific Railway Directors. Quickly recognizing the tourism potential of Banff, Canadian Pacific built the Banff Springs Hotel. While the hotel was originally planned to service guests as a stopover while traveling across the country, it soon became a destination on its own and still is today.

There are plenty of great places to stay and eat while in Banff and at multiple different price points. We stayed at the Banff Caribou Lodge and Spa. It was my first time staying here, but I was quite satisfied. The rooms were all recently redone, the hotel had a pool and spa area, onsite restaurant (The Keg) and a mini fridge in the room to keep our beer and wine cold for an après ski drink! It’s also about 5 mins away from the main strip (Banff Ave), which I prefer because it keeps the noise levels down. All in all, I would definitely stay here again.

The food highlights for me were The Maple Leaf Grill & Lounge and Wild Bill’s Legendary Saloon, both on Banff Ave. We ate at the Maple Leaf on the Saturday night of our trip. It was St. Patrick’s Day and I had been hoping to go to the Irish Pub but it was just packed and we were both really hungry, after a full day on the hill. The Maple Leaf has a great atmosphere. It’s got stereotypical Canadian decor (think stuffed beavers and geese and wood) but the overall vibe is cozy and romantic. We sat in big cushiony chairs tucked in the corner of the room, with a wool Hudson’s Bay Company blanket covering the bottom half of the window for both privacy and warmth. To eat we had the Pan Fried Gnocchi and AAA Beef Tenderloin (both very good), followed by the Chocolate Soufflé for dessert (fantastic).

We ate at Wild Bill’s for our first lunch in town, after our drive in from Edmonton. I believe this place is a bar at night and a restaurant during the day. It has a very good central location, located on the second floor of the building so you have a nice view from the window as well. The service left something to be desired, however, the food was awesome. We had the Bison Burger and the Ranch-Style Turkey, which is a sandwich with turkey, lots of gravy and a little bit of sour cream….it was so, so good. You definitely get your bang-for-your-buck pub food here.

The main reason we went to Banff was to go snowboarding. We chose to go to Lake Louise to board because you can buy lift tickets from Costco and they are much cheaper. The hill is great. It has 4200 skiable acres, making it one of the largest ski areas in North America. There are tons of lifts and over 139 marked runs, plus the back bowls. So, as long as you avoid the main area, off of the first lift, you can generally board without people getting in your way. We couldn’t have asked for better weather when we went. It was probably about zero degrees and it snowed all day long. The only time I was ever cold was on the chair lift. The hill had tons of powder. At one point, at the top of the mountain it was a total white out. You couldn’t tell what was sky and what was mountain. It was actually a little freaky since I couldn’t tell where the run was, I was terrified of going off of a cliff! A great day though. I hadn’t been snowboarding in two years, just been too busy, I’m very glad I made it out this year though. This was a great weekend.

Travel Tuesday: Strasbourg, France

On my Europe trip in 2010, we ended up going to Strasbourg on a bit of a whim. We were on a road trip from Cannes to Paris, with no real road map in mind and kind of just ended up there. I am so happy we did, I only wish that we had had more time to visit, as the city was so beautiful and unique.

Strasbourg is the capital city of the Alsace region in eastern France, located very close to the German border. A lot happens in this city. It is the official seat of the European Parliament, and the seat of several European institutions, such as the Council of Europe (with its European Court of Human Rights, its European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines and its European Audiovisual Observatory) and the Eurocorps, as well as the European Ombudsman of the European Union. Busy place hey!

Strasbourg, to me, seems to be an amalgamation of so many things. Old and new. Work and play. History and progress. French and German. You see this represented in the language, the food, the drinks, the architecture and the colours. It’s just such a unique city.

Strasbourg’s historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. It is fused into the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a bridge of unity between France and Germany for centuries, especially through the University of Strasbourg, currently the largest in France, and the coexistence of Catholic and Protestant culture.

Strasbourg is situated on the Île River, where it flows into the Rhine on the border with Germany. A boat trip is, in my opinion, the best way to get to see Strasbourg because of the perfect view it gives you of Strasbourg`s main attractions: European Parliament, the German Quarter, the Middle Age Petite France, among many others. One thing I found really cool on the boat ride was that you have to pass through the locks I had never experienced this before. The boat goes through a canal which is a very tight fit and the lock gates raise it more than one meter to the upper level. It takes 5 minutes for enough water to be release to raise the boat. It’s interesting to watch the water level rise under the boat by seeing how different markings on the concrete wall beside the boat disappear under the water.

On the boat tour, seeing the architecture of the buildings and listening to the guide tell you about the history, you realize just how old this city is. Coming from a country that’s fairly young like Canada, it is incredible to think that you are in a place that is hundreds of thousands of years old. Maybe I’m just a nerd like that, but I find history so fascinating. The first traces of human occupation in Strasbourg go back 600,000 years.  Neolithic, bronze age and iron age artifacts have been uncovered by archeological excavations. It was permanently settled by proto-Celts around 1300 BC. That’s really old you guys!

The city is primarily known for its sandstone Gothic Cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and for its medieval cityscape of Rhineland black and white timber-framed buildings, particularly in the Petite-France district or Gerberviertel (“tanners’ district”) alongside the Île and in the streets and squares surrounding the cathedral, where the renowned Maison Kammerzell stands out.

The Cathédrale Notre-Dame is a Roman Catholic cathedral. It is incredible to stare up at all the carvings and stonework, and to realize that people actually created that by hand. It is so detailed and intricate. A true piece of art. Although considerable parts of it are still in Romanesque architecture, it is widely considered to be among the finest examples of high, or late, Gothic architecture. Erwin von Steinbach is credited for major contributions from 1277 to his death in 1318.

At 466 feet, it was the world’s tallest building from 1647 to 1874, when it was surpassed by St. Nikolai’s Church, Hamburg. Today it is the sixth-tallest church in the world.

Victor Hugo had described the Cathédrale as a “gigantic and delicate marvel,” Goethe described it as a “sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God.” And widespread it is! It is visible far across the plains of Alsace and can be seen from as far off as the Vosges Mountains or the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine.

The Strasbourg astronomical clock is located in the Cathédrale. I found it so odd to see science and religion together like this. Like I said, Strasbourg is nothing if not unique. The clocks main features, besides the automata, are a perpetual calendar (including a computus), an orrery (planetary dial), a display of the real position of the Sun and the Moon, and solar and lunar eclipses. The main attraction is the procession of the 18 inch high figures of Christ and the Apostles which occurs every day at half past midday while the life-size cock crows thrice.

Like I mentioned earlier, this city has so much to offer visitors, you should all go and experience it yourselves. I’m fairly certain that I will be back again one day…at least I hope so!


Strolling through Banff

Strolling through Banff

I’m heading to Banff this weekend and I am getting pretty excited! It’s been quite a few years since I was there last, and apparently the weather is going to be fabulous and the snowfall is epic. While strolling around town, you can expect to see me wearing something like this. Cozy sweater, flat boots and skinny jeans will keep me warm, comfy and ready for whatever my day may bring! On a side note, does anyone have any restaurant/pub recommendations in Banff? Like I said, it’s been awhile since my last visit!

Travel Tuesday: The Algarve, Portugal

Is it really after four already?!? This day has been crazy, sorry for such a late post. For today’s Travel Tuesday post I am going to show you some photos from my trip to the Algarve region of Portugal this past summer. We stayed in the town of Albufeira for just under two weeks and had an incredible time.

Albufeira has a few different parts to it. There is the old town with it’s pretty cobbled streets lined with restaurants, bars, cafes and shops; the lively nightlife in São João; Albufeira marina with its sugar candy coloured apartments and last but not least the lovely, sandy beaches.

What I loved about Portugal is that it took my favourite aspects of travel and combined them into one great destination. The beaches were idyllic, with white sand, crystal clear water, and immense rock formations adding to your visual delights. The quaint towns were walkable, with restaurants, lounges and cafes scattering the cobblestone streets. The food…man oh man, I could do a whole post on the food. I love seafood, a lot. I ate so much while I was there from mussels to clams to tuna and more. I also tried one of their local specialties chicken piri piri, which is basically chicken with a very spicy marinade. Everything was super affordable which was great too. That’s one of the things I love about Europe, how you can sit at a restaurant order great food and lots of drinks and still leave after hours with a bill under a hundred Euros. That doesn’t happen at home. Portuguese was nearly impossible to speak for me. I tried, but it just didn’t work, so I appreciate the locals being more than helpful speaking English.

Another thing I loved about the Algarve was the weather. If you are taking a vacation and pretty much want to guarantee good weather go to the Algarve. With over 3,000 hours of sun a year the Algarve has a mild climate making it an ideal holiday destination all year round. It also gets very little rain (although we did have rain one day) and gets very hot in the summer (like 30 to 40 degrees). Perfect for a beach vacation! If you have any questions about the Algarve, let me know. It was a great vacation, I highly recommend it!

Travel Tuesday: Cancun, Mexico

I went to Cancun with my boyfriend back in 2008 during Reading Week (Canadian Spring Break). The consistent 30 degrees Celsius temps were a very welcome break from February in Canada! We stayed at the Grande Oasis Hotel which we thought was great. We upgraded to an ocean front room, with is 100% worth it to me. There’s nothing like coming back to your room at the end of the day and having a few drinks watching the sunset over the ocean. We did the club thing two nights we were there; however we’re not really clubby people. Coco Bongo was insane—I think I was inside for like 30 minutes before I started having a panic attack from the crowds. It was so full we couldn’t even get to the exit, a kind security guard took pity on me and let us leave through an emergency exit. If the building wasn’t so crowded I think I would have loved Coco Bongo, but it was just way, way too much for me hahaha.

The ocean was great, that beautiful turquoise colour that makes you dream of vacation. We took a few excursions too, and those were fun. I don’t think I would go back to Cancun again, not because it isn’t good, but because I think I’d rather go a bit further out of the city into the Mayan Riviera, where the scene is less focused on clubs and shopping. That’s a little more up my alley!

Travel Tuesday: Cinque Terre, Italy

Italy is such a diverse country in terms of landscape. You have ancient cities, rolling hillsides and villages built high in the cliffs. Cinque Terre is in the Italian Riviera in the Liguria region of Italy. “The Five Lands” is composed of five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastline, the five villages, and the surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I’ve been to Cinque Terre twice now, once in 2006 and once in 2010. What I love about these five villages is that they are quite literally a breath of fresh air. It is so refreshing to visit them after going to a few larger European cities, such as Rome.

A walking trail, known as Sentiero Azzurro (“Light Blue Trail”), connects all five villages. I’ve never done all five hikes in one day, rather split the hike into two separate days. The trail from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell’Amore (“Love Walk”) and is the easiest walk, as it is all paved and fairly flat. The stretch from Manarola to Corniglia is also easy to hike, although the main trail into Corniglia finishes with a climb of 368 stairs, and on a hot day, man oh man it feels like a lot more!

Cinque Terre is built on cliffsides along the ocean and the mountainsides are heavily terraced and are used to cultivate grapes and olives. The grapes of the Cinque Terre are used to produce two locally made wines. The eponymous Cinque Terre and the Sciachetrà are both made using Bosco, Albarola, and Vermentino grapes. Both wines are produced by the Cooperative Agricoltura di Cinque Terre (“Cinque Terre Agricultural Cooperative”), located between Manarola and Volastra. Other DOC producers are Forlini-Capellini, Walter de Batté, Buranco, Arrigoni. I’ve tried a few of these wines, and their quite good, and seriously, the local wine is dirt cheap, you can buy a bottle for about three Euros, it’s cheaper than buying water! This area, and the region of Liguria, as a whole, is known for pesto, and it is soooo good. I had an amazing meal sitting on the rocks watching the sun set over the cliffs. I bought a pesto pizza from the local pizzeria and a bottle of wine and had the perfect picnic. Best part, the whole meal probably cost about eight Euros. Can’t beat that!