Leah Explores … Denia

When a good friend got married in Spain in May, myself and one of my favourite travel buddies decided to make the most of being there. We not only celebrated their marriage, but also explored the beautiful Spanish town of Denia, as well as some of the surrounding areas. We didn’t stay for too long; we had two full days plus two half days, but managed to squeeze a lot into a little time.

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Stay:
We weighed our options and ultimately decided to rent an Air B&B. Whilst there were some beautiful hotels in the area, we felt like a Air B&B was the best option for us. Our apartment was located close to the Marina, not far from the Old Town and featured a stunning rooftop patio with views of the castle. One thing to keep in mind if you are staying in the area and renting a car is that parking in the area is pretty limited to street parking and the occasional car park, so be prepared for some narrow streets and parallel parking.
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Other options:
Hotel Nou Roma
A couple of people who attended the wedding stayed her and having seen some of the pictures it looks lovely. Right in the middle of the Old Town of Denia, and within walking distance of pretty much everything in town, this boutique hotel should be a contender if you’re looking for something more in the action.
Hotel Los Angeles
Located a little way out of the hustle and bustle of the town, but right on the beach with stunning views, this hotel is definitely worth considering if you want something more low key and relaxing.
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See and Do:
We had a day and a half for exploring, in which time we managed to fit in a decent amount, including venturing a little further afield to visit Guadalest and Fonts De L’Algar.
Denia Castle
There is no doubt that this is one of, if not the main attraction in Denia. The castle dominates the skyline and watches over the city. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries there is a lot of history and beautiful details to explore. We just looked around the grounds and took in the stunning views that they offer, but there is a museum you can visit too. One thing to keep in mind is that they only accept cash for the entrance fee, which is three euro’s, so make sure you have some on you.
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Marina and beaches
Denia is a port town with ferries that run to Ibiza as well as other destinations. This means that there are miles of beaches to check out as well as the marina to stroll around and daydream about boating in the Mediterranean.

Stroll around town
One of my favourite things to do whilst on vacation is to just wander around the local area, and get lost in a new place. Denia is the perfect city for this, especially around the Old Town where the streets are narrow and the buildings are beautiful.

Eat and Drink
If you don’t go to Spain and eat all the Paella and drink all the Sangria are you even really in Spain? Within thirty minutes of checking into our Air B&B we were on our first glass of Sangria. As for Paella we went to Tasca Les Monges in the the Old Town, which was recommended to us by the Bride and approved by her Spanish Husband, win win.

Have you been to Denia? What was your highlight? Let me know in the comments.
Happy exploring.

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Leah Explores … Guadalest

Guadalest is a tiny village located up in the mountains with stunning views of the valley below. Not too far outside of Benidorm, Alicante and Denia it is the perfect place for a quick day trip. There isn’t too much to do there, it is a village after all, but the views more than make up for a lack of activities.

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There was a restaurant located at the bottom of the mountain, which we stopped for lunch at, but it is worth keeping in mind that there were more choices once you to up to to the top. As well as restaurants and cafes there were also abundant souvenir and gift shops, in the village square. As well as plenty of places to stop in and get an ice cream to cool off and reward yourself for climbing up to the top.

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We decided to do the self guided tour of the castle which only cost a few euro’s, and provided some beautiful views of the surrounding valley, as well as an insight into the history of the area. Plus it didn’t take too long, and provided some cool shade from the blistering heat.

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simply stunning
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the castle
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taking in the views

 

There was a car park at the bottom of the mountain, pretty much opposite the entrance of the village, which was convenient. The cost of parking was cheap too, around two euro’s.  Whilst I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest a trip to Guadalest, it is worth remembering that the walk up to the top of the town (where the killer views are) involves cobblestones and stairs, making it a bit of a challenge for anyone who struggles walking, is in a wheelchair, or small children in strollers.

views from the top
views from the top

Leah Explores … Fonts De L’Algar

The Algar Waterfalls or Fonts De L’Algar, are a protected wetland area located between Denia and Alicante, close to Benidorm in the Costa Blanca region of Spain. And trust me when I say this place is like a slice of paradise. There are trails that you can follow that lead you to the waterfalls as well as pools that you can swim in, and if you are feeling brave there are even places where you can jump into the crystal clear but cold water. Whilst there are some restaurants dotted around the area, it is worth remembering that you are still pretty isolated. If you want to spend the day there I would suggest taking some snacks or a picnic along too. Rather than me babble on I’m going to let the photo’s do the rest of the work, in convincing you whilst you should make the Fonts De L’Algar part of your itinerary if you are in the area.

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Top Tips:
Drive until you can’t drive any further
My friend Sarah told us about this and I am so happy that she did. As you turn off the main road and follow the signs to the waterfalls there are loads of places to park, but if you park in one of these earlier ones you are going to have to walk quite a distance to get to the entrance of the waterfalls. So, drive along the road until you cannot drive any further and then park up, at which point you’ll have a two minute walk as opposed to a ten minute walk uphill.

Take waterproof shoes
If you want to go into the water, you need to take waterproof footwear with you. The pools are filled with rocks and stones, and without appropriate footwear you’re in for some very sore feet. I noticed that some of the small shops near the car parks sold waterproof shoes but I’m sure you can get them a lot cheaper.

Getting There:
We drove there pretty easily, and there are sign posts leading you to the waterfalls from the main road. The streets are quite narrow, but I’ve definitely driven down worse in parts of rural England and even around the town of Denia. Another option would be taking a bus or taxi from the centre of the closest town of Callosa d’en Sarrià.

Top Ten … Hidden Gems in Vancouver

There is nothing better than stumbling across a hidden gem whilst exploring a city. Whether you are a local or just visiting there is always something new to discover in this wonderful city. Below are a list of some of my favourite hidden gems in Vancouver, a few you can probably read about in travel guides but some aren’t quite as well publicized. I hope you go and explore and enjoy these places and experiences just as much as I do.

  1. Vancouver Art Gallery Cafe
    The cafe at the Art Gallery not only offers a huge selection of delicious food but also one of the nicest places to sit and relax in the summer with a glass of wine on the secluded patio. This oasis is my favourite summer lunchtime retreat.
  2. Vancity Theatre
    If you’re a fan of festival style films and documentaries, then this is the place for you. This is the hub of the Vancouver International Film Festival, but they run festival films all year round not just during the festival. They have some of the comfiest seats in town, plus you can take alcohol into the theatre with you, win win!
  3. Shipyards Night Markets
    Summer time in Vancouver means night markets. Most people head down to Richmond to check out one of the two options that are there. Those markets are great but a few years back I went to the Shipyards Night Market in North Vancouver and found that I liked it a whole load more than the Richmond markets. Plus as an added bonus you can take the seabus straight there and there are some stunning views of Downtown on offer too. Make sure you check for what dates it’s on before you head over.

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    Views from North Van.
  4. La Casa Gelato
    Located in Strathcona this place is an ice cream lovers dream. They have over 200 flavours to choose from in store and you can try them as you attempt to narrow it down and make a decision. Set aside a decent amount of time for the decision making process. I had Rice Krispie flavour last time and it was so yummy!
  5. Choklit Park
    This is one of my favourite views of the city. The park is so tiny it hardly classes as a park, more of a gap in between houses, but the views are simply stunning. Tucked away along 7th Avenue, it’s well worth the trip out of downtown and into Fairview Slopes to see the city from a different perspective.
  6. Main St. Murals
    Main St. is a pretty awesome place to visit, it’s full of cool shops and restaurants and is a great place to get some “local flavour” and now it is filled with awesome murals. Head there for some super Instagrammable spots.
  7. Queen Elizabeth Park
    Stanley Park is great and all but I personally prefer Queen Elizabeth Park, it’s located out of Downtown and up past Cambie Village but it’s well worth the trip. Head here to catch the sun setting over the mountains and the city. The views are absolutely incredible and you get such a cool perspective of the city against the backdrop of the mountains.
  8. Kit’s Pool
    Not so much of a secret or a hidden gem, but absolutely one of my favourite places to go in the summer. The views are incredible and I cannot help but get blindsided by the beauty of the blue of the pool against the blue of the ocean and the sky.
  9. Hot Chocolate Festival
    Whilst everyone gets excited in the New Year for Dine Out Vancouver, myself included, what I get really excited for is the Hot Chocolate Festival. Local coffee shops, bakeries and chocolate shops create signature hot chocolates which are always delicious. Check out their website for dates and participating venues.
  10. Cocktail Roulette
    Like cocktails? Like trying new things? Then the Revel Room is the place for you. Whilst you can have one of the many delicious drinks from the menu my favourite thing to do is play Cocktail Roulette. It’s pretty simple, you choose the spirit, style of cocktail and can request sweet or sour etc and then leave the rest up to the bar. They’ll whip you up something delightful and different, I’ve never had a bad experience!  The Revel Room is located in Gastown slightly tucked away along Abbott Street.

Do you have any favourite hidden gems in the city? What are they? Let me know in the comments below. Happy exploring!

Upcoming Adventures – 2017 Edition

At the start of each year I like to start thinking about my travel plans for the rest of the year, places I know I’m definitely going to go, and places I’m dreaming about going. I’ve been meaning to write this post since New Years Day, but in classic last-minute Leah style I’ve procrastinated and now it’s February! This year I have a trip home to which is going to eat into most of my vacation time from work (damn you Canada and your stingy vacation allowance) but I’m hoping to squeeze a couple of weekends away into my travel plans for the year, and as always there are plenty of stat days coming up so if I’m strategic I can squeeze in a three day weekend or two for exploring.

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The Definities:
England
I have a trip home to look forward to at the end of May. It will be nearly 18 months since I’ve been back to England by the time this trip rolls around and I cannot wait to catch up with family and friends. I’m looking forward to spending some relaxing time at home as well as going to Gloucester, London and anywhere else I can squeeze in during this trip.

Spain
Whilst in England, I’ll be heading over to Spain, more specifically the Costa Blanca, to celebrate a friends wedding at the end of May. Myself and another friend are flying into Alicante and then heading down to the port town of Denia, where we will be based. I know we are both looking forward to seeing the ancient castle in the town and explore the surrounding area’s, as well as squeezing in a few trips to the beach and plenty of sangria.

Los Angeles
I’ve been to LA and many of the surrounding area’s before but this year I’m heading back for an extra special reason; my bestie’s bachelorette weekend. The process of planning is in full swing, and without giving too much away; we will be heading down to the LA area for a weekend, of sunshine, cocktails and laughter!

Pemberton/Whistler
The wedding of the aforementioned bestie is taking place in the beautiful area of Pemberton, British Columbia in August. I know I will be spending a weekend up in ‘Sea to Sky’ country for the wedding and taking in the beauty of Whistler and Pemberton in the summertime.

The Maybe’s:
Gulf Islands
I’ve been to Galiano Island and Bowen Island, but there are so many more Gulf Islands to explore right on my doorstep, top contenders include; Salt Spring and Pender. Watch this space …

Canada
I’ve said it before, and no doubt I will say it again, but I haven’t made the most of living in this beautiful country and I want to attempt to rectify that this year. Even if I just explore some more of British Columbia I will be happy.

Weekend’s Away
I know I will probably have a weekend away with two of my best friends at some point in the summer. We go away together every year, last year we went to Harrison Hot Springs which was lovely and relaxing, and I’m looking forward to seeing where we end up this year.

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Whilst I have lots of exciting stuff to look forward to this year, I don’t have any big epic trips coming up. I’m more focused on taking smaller weekend breaks and local days out, in a never ending effort to try and save money. We’ll see how it goes …
What are your travel plans for the year? Let me know in the comments, happy exploring!

Top Ten … 2016 Travel Experiences

Whilst 2016 was a sucky year for many reasons, I can’t help but be thankful for some of the awesome travel experiences I’ve had. Starting a travel blog was a big thing for me and it has really helped to push me out of my comfort zone, appreciate all that is around me and travel more than I would have done. So without further ado, here are my top ten travel experiences of 2016 …

  1. Salvation Mountain
    Salvation Mountain was one of those places I have wanted to go to for a long time and finally making it happen this year was really satisfying. This place is completely magical and I hope everyone gets to experience it at some point.
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  2. Moorten Botanical Gardens
    This place wasn’t big or fancy, it was small and tucked away and a complete hidden gem. If you had of told me that one of my highlights of 2016 would have been going to a botanical garden full of cacti I would have laughed in your face, but here I am, writing about how much I loved it.
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  3. Santa Barbara
    I didn’t spend long in Santa Barbara but the time I did have there I really enjoyed. I always feel like I’ve seen quite a bit of southern California so the chance to explore somewhere new is always great.
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  4. Capitol Hill
    Going back to Seattle and exploring new neighborhoods was apparently all that was needed for me to fall in love with Seattle all over again. Capitol Hill and Ballad were full of “local flavour” and a perfect place to spend a weekend with good friends.
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  5. Harrison Hot Springs
    Going back to Harrison this summer for more than an hour was pretty great. It’s such a beautiful place and being able to relax with friends and take it easy was just what the doctor ordered.
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  6. Galiano Island
    Any chance to see more of beautiful British Columbia is always more than fine by me, and Galiano sure was beautiful. A perfect place to hideaway from reality for a few days.
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  7. San Francisco
    I’ve wanted to go to San Francisco for a long time, and in 2016 I finally made it happen. Luckily, it did not disappoint, even though I did a lot, I feel like I hardly scratched the surface, so I cannot wait to go back there someday and do some more exploring!
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  8. Whale Watching
    I’ve been whale watching before and it was very unsuccessful, so when I got the chance to go again whilst visiting family I jumped at it. What I saw was beyobd my wildest dreams; Orca’s, Dolphins and a Blue Whale to name a few!
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  9. Redwoods
    In the same trip as whale watching I also got to go and see the world famous Redwood tree’s in the less than famous Henry Cowell State Park. Seeing these trees in person is something amazing, you cannot comprehend the height and width of them without standing next to one and feeling completely insignificant.
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  10. Ojai
    Ojai was my “treat yo’self” spur of the moment trip of the year, and I loved it. This tiny little laid back oasis was the perfect place to spend a few days by myself, exploring and recharging my batteries.
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Honourable mentions go to the Cabazon Dinosaurs for their sheer quirkiness, my birthday hike in Deep Cove, visiting Carmel, riding in a Seaplane, and finally my amazing Cabin Christmas. 2016 was a great year of travel for me but I’m hoping 2017 will be even better! Happy exploring!

Top Ten Tips … For a Successful Cabin Christmas

I just got back from another amazing cabin Christmas in Mount Baker, with five of my closest friends. It’s become our tradition to go down to a Cabin in Mount Baker for Christmas as our surrogate family of six (and Dave the dog!) I never get to go down with the rest of the group on 23rd December because I nearly always have to work Christmas Eve, so I miss out on all of the shopping, and tend to just swan in for the fun stuff (sorry guys!) I like to think that the six of us have it down to a pretty fine art, after a few years of having done this, and this year was testament to that, our Christmas was filled with laughter, cheese, snow and good times! So with that in mind here are my top ten tips on how to have a stress free awesome cabin Christmas with friends.

  1. Book the cabin early
    We always book our cabin pretty early in the summer.We have a few specific needs – pet friendly, sleeps six, not ridiculously expensive – which means that our search is a bit narrow. We’ve gone to the same cabin three times now, and because we like it so much we want to make sure someone doesn’t sneak in and book it first, plus booking early is one less thing to worry about the closer it gets to Christmas and getting some of the payments out the way early is always helpful.

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    Our cabin
  2. Plan ahead
    My friend James takes charge of the food on Christmas day (thank you!) and I know he plans what our meal will be ahead of time, so that when it comes to the trip to the grocery store, the list is already done meaning the whole mission is streamlined and somewhat stress free! If you’re cooking a meal think about all the little things you’re going to need down to oil, spices and salt and pepper that you might take having to hand for granted.
  3. Keep it simple
    We keep our food pretty simple whilst we are down at the cabin, we have our big Christmas day meal, and then for the rest of the time we pretty much stick to cheese and crackers, leftovers and some other snacky bits. This works for us, you might feel like being a bit fancier, but just remember it all has to be eaten or thrown away.
  4. Know boarder restrictions
    If you’re crossing the boarder, like we do, be aware of restrictions of what can and can’t cross the boarder. We buy all our food and alcohol once we’re in the US so we don’t even have to worry about this. This applies to what you can bring back into Canada too. This year we had quite a bit of left over unopened cheese, so we came home with those.
  5. Buy food and booze in the US
    Like I’ve already said we buy everything we eat and drink once we get down to the States. For a start it’s so much cheaper, we had a bottle of Port that was $6.99 (USD) and I know the other alcohol we get is also a lot cheaper than what we could have got in Canada. Same goes for the food, cheese is cheap and the options plentiful, and we love cheese! Plus there is no worrying about what can and can’t cross the boarder.
  6. Be prepared
    Two years ago I had a tickly cough on my way down to the cabin, by 11pm that night I felt terrible and all I had with me was some cough drops and 8 cold and flu tablets. I had the flu, and I felt horrendous. The cabin is pretty remote, and whilst there is a gas station a few miles away, it’s not just like running around the corner like you would of you were in a city. The moral of the story is be prepared. This year I took a few more medication options just in case any of us didn’t feel 100%.

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    Snow queen
  7. Discuss expectations
    As I’ve already said the six of us have done this a few times now and we all know how the few days are going to go. If this is your first Christmas with new people I suggest discussing the day before it gets there. You might expect to eat at lunch time whilst everyone else thinks you should eat in the evening. Think about all the little details and traditions that you want to be part of Christmas and make sure you’re all on the same page or willing to compromise so everyone can have an enjoyable Christmas.
  8. Don’t be greedy
    We don’t have a whole turkey because realistically we are not going to even get close to finishing it, we have turkey breasts which are more than enough and save us from having to throw a load of leftovers away. Another reason we don’t have an entire turkey is down to limited room in the oven; if we wanted a whole bird we’d probably have to sacrifice some sides. Think about the details.
  9. Bring entertainment
    We always take ample films and games to keep us entertained.The cabin we stay in does have a few classic games in there but we have our favourites that we take down with us. We also take some of our favourite Christmas films, so that we aren’t stuck watching what’s on television.
  10. Go offline and relax
    Our cabin didn’t have wifi the last few times we went there and we loved that about it. This year the owners had installed wifi, which we only used a few times, to Skype home on Christmas day and to contact me about the road/snow situation for my drive down. Going offline and having no phone signal is part of the beauty of the cabin for me, it’s a chance to switch off from the real world and relax.

Whilst traveling with friends can be amazing, and is definitely one of my favourite things to do there is no doubt that there can occasionally be a few bumps in the road. I hope some of these tips can be applied to traveling with friends, even if it’s not for Christmas but just in general, and to help you have as good of a time as I do when I go away with my friends for our cabin Christmas.

 

 

Leah Explores … Capilano Suspension Bridge

My dad was just here for a visit, and since he has been here many times before it’s getting harder and harder to find new things to do with him, it’s a challenge, but a fun one! On his final full day in the city I decided that since the weather wasn’t that great, we would embrace it and go full PNW. We headed over to North Vancouver to explore Capilano Suspension Bridge. I’d taken him to Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge (a free, smaller bridge just down the road) a few years ago, and always just skipped over Capilano as a bigger and more expensive version of something he’d already done. But I was running low on idea’s and this seemed like the perfect dad-friendly activity. I worked it out on the way over that I hadn’t been to Capilano since December 2011 when I went with some friends to see the Christmas lights, so it was about time for a do-over.

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Extreme nature ahead!

The Bridge: This is definitely the main attraction, a 450ft suspension bridge that hangs 230ft above the Capilano River, it is a sight to behold. The bridge itself had a definite wobble as you walk across it, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on your feeling about heights, and suspension bridges. I would urge you to brave it because there is some cool stuff on the other side, plus how often do you get to walk across something like this?

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The bridge

Treetop Adventure: This might just be my favourite part of the park. It’s a route of seven smaller suspension bridges that lead you through the treetops, giving you an alternate perspective of the park. Walking through these bridges and lookouts makes me feel like I am in Neverland from the film Hook and I love it.

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Treetop exploring

Cliffwalk: The cliffwalk is a series of thin walkways that jut out from the side of the cliff face, leading you along the side of the cliff allowing you to gain stunning views of the river, trees and bridge.  It’s a great way to get a different perspective of the park, and the walk ways don’t wobble like the bridge does so it’s a great alternative for anyone not brave enough to face the bridge.

Other things: Make sure to check out the gift shop, which I was pleasantly surprised to see had a bit more than just the usual tourist junk in there, any gift shop with a counter full of fudge gets my vote. There is plenty of other stuff to check out in the park including totem poles, the story center that lays out the history of the bridge, a cafe,  and nature walks to name a few. If you want to take advantage of the stunning surroundings and get some killer photo’s its worth bearing in mind that it can get very busy with tourists, and selfie sticks. We went on a Wednesday afternoon in early November and it was nice and quiet. If you’re going to visit at a busier time of year, or  a weekend, I’d suggest going early in the morning. Also, if you are a BC resident make sure you take advantage of being able to switch your ticket for an annual resident pass which means that you can go back and visit as many times as you want in the year!

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Totem poles

Getting there:
Getting to Capilano is surprisingly easy. They offer a free shuttle from downtown Vancouver which picks up (and drops off) at four convenient spots around the downtown core and takes you straight to the entrance of the bridge. Check out the schedule on the website here for pick up times and locations. If you are feeling a bit more independent, you can also easily drive and park across the street, or take public transit.

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Admiring the Christmas Lights

This visit to Capilano has helped me out of a rut and to appreciate all that Vancouver has to offer. I honestly enjoyed my trip to Capilano much more than I thought I would. It had been a few years since I visited, and I remember the last time I went there that it felt a bit tame and on the family friendly side. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I just didn’t see the point in paying $40 when I could go to Lynn Valley for free. That said, absence makes the heart grow fonder and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. I will be making a conscious effort to go back and see the Christmas lights and throughout the year with my BC resident pass.

Head over to the Capilano Suspension Bridge website for more information on things to see and do at the park. Happy exploring!

Leah Explores … Palm Springs

I have a confession to make; I have actually been to Palm Springs twice before, but never actually done anything more than sit by the pool and go to Walmart to collect camping supplies for Coachella. I decided it was time to rectify that situation and head into the desert. My mum was here for a few weeks, and as has become our tradition during her summer visits we try to go away as much as possible. We’d already been to Galiano Island and in previous years have gone down to Las Vegas, mainly because it’s cheap to get to from Vancouver and because we can eat, drink and lie by a pool there. This year we mixed it up a bit and decided upon a change of scenery, so we headed into the blistering Palm Springs sun.

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Beautiful Palm Springs

Stay:
I stayed at The Monroe which was pretty conveniently located at the north end of Palm Canyon Drive, which is the main strip in Palm Springs, so to speak. I found the hotel through booking.com and it had the dream combination of being reasonably priced and well reviewed! It was absolutely perfect for our stay as it had free parking, decent rooms and a great sized pool – win!

Eat:
I had so many delicious meals in Palm Springs, which actually surprised me a bit because I wouldn’t automatically think of it as a foodie haven … until now.
Lulu’s California Bistro
This place was huge, and had a menu big enough to rival The Cheesecake Factory, and some very strong cocktails.
Norma’s at The Parker
The Parker is one of the most beautiful places I have ever stepped foot in, and on top of that I had the most delicious french toast here, and it was honestly as thick as a ream of paper, no lie!
Workshop Kitchen + Bar
Super hipster, and super delicous, offering farm to table yumminess, tucked away in a cute little courtyard.
Koffi
There are a couple of these coffee shops dotted around the city, their muffins and iced coffees were amazing.
Great Shakes
Does what it says on the tin. I had the white chocolate cherry, and it was ridiculous in the best possible way!
Trio
Kind of like Lulu’s but on a slightly smaller scale. Their tagline is “Where Palm Springs eats” and that was good enough for me.
Ice Cream and Shop(pe)
Offering unique and delicious ice cream options with some cute gifts to shop at the same time. I had the pomegranate chip and it was beyond good.
Kings Highway at Ace
Cool vibes and a great menu full of food you want to eat. Their BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avacado, tomato) was absolutely scrummy!

* I’d read so many great reviews about Cheeky’s but sadly it was closed for August so I didn’t get to try it this time.

Do:
For such a tiny city I was really pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do in Palm Springs. Don’t get me wrong I was more than content to lie by the pool all day in the blistering sun, but also had the urge to go and do a bit of exploring. Looking back I feel like I had a nice balance of exploring and relaxing.
Aerial Tramway
The aerial tramway takes you all the way to the top of San Jacinto Peak. What makes this different from other gondolas and tramways is that this one rotates 360 degrees on the way up providing stunning views of the Coachella Valley and surrounding mountains. Once at the top there are stunning views to take in, as well as some hikes and all the classic National Parks information and learning centre.
Cabazon Dinosaurs
This place is so random and so completely unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. The concept is really simple; humongous dinosaur statues by the side of the road. We didn’t bother to pay and go in, but just had a quick look around and took a few photo’s. It’s only about a 20minute drive from Palm Springs and I’d definitely recommend it as something quirky to check out.
Salvation Mountain
It’s a bit of a drive (about 90 minutes each way) but in my opinion, so utterly and completely worth it, plus you get to drive past the Salton Sea which is kind of cool. This place is magical and unlike anything I have ever seen before. I first saw Salvation Mountain in the movie Into The Wild and it’s periodically popped up over and over again throughout the years, I’ve had a hankering to go there ever since. I don’t think I could ever do justice to how special this place is, so I will just say that if you ever get a chance to go there, please do so.
Moorten Botanical Garden
I stumbled across this place whilst doing some Pintrest research before leaving, and it actually ended up being one of my favourite things from the whole trip. It is so unique and being able to look at the hundreds of different types of cacti all in one place is really cool. Plus this place is home of the worlds first ‘cactarium’ which is a beautiful greenhouse filled with cacti bathing in muted light!
Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center
We stopped by here on out last morning in Palm Springs, because the bigger Palm Springs Art Museum wasn’t open yet and this place was, plus it was en route to the airport. There is free admission and it’s small enough that you can make your way around in around 30-45 minutes without rushing. This faction of the museum features temporary exhibits, and had some cool mid-century furniture on display whilst we were visiting.

I had such a great time in Palm Springs, and I know my mum did too. Palm Springs is such a bewitching place and is most definitely on the laid back side of things. There was a huge choice of great places to eat, and plenty of things to see and do that were all a bit different to things that you normally find to do when on vacation. To me Palm Springs is the kind of place where you can completely tailor your trip to suit your interests, which is kind of the perfect destination.

Leah Explores … Harrison Hot Springs

Every year myself and two of my best friends go away for the weekend. It can be a bit challenging as we all work together so there is always a bit of human Tetris involved for us to all get the weekend off but we always manage (well done Laura!) This year we decided that we wouldn’t go anywhere too far away and wanted to stay in Canada, because of the US exchange rate right now. We settled on Harrison Hot Springs, a tiny lakeside town about 90 minutes outside of Vancouver. We’ve all been before, but not for a while which made it fun to rediscover this little gem of a place.

Stay
As I’ve already said Harrison is tiny, there are some small hotels and campsites around, however, most people, ourselves included, opt to stay at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort and Spa. This place reminds me of Kellermans from Dirty Dancing; everything is there and there are definitely some people who do not leave the resort. And to be fair, you don’t really need to. It has a spa, pools, bar, restaurant, shops and a coffee shop. There were some nice touches too, for example they had free afternoon tea out by the pools one day during our time there. Our stay was really enjoyable and I would definitely stay there again.

Do
Harrison is definitely a place for both relaxing and for being active, it’s such a small place that you will inevitably end up doing both. As the name suggests the town is home to some Hot Springs which definitely lend themselves to the relaxing aspect of the trip. On the other hand there are loads of trails around the area as well as abundant water sport options, and a ridiculously fun looking inflatable Total Wipeout style obstacle course out on the lake. Our stay coincided with the annual ‘Sasquatch Days’ which included war canoe races, activities and entertainment, and takes place every June.
We did the easiest hikes called the Miami Bridges trail which is a very leisurely (and flat) 0.5km meander through some trees, past some water and back to the hotel car park. Of course, when in Harrison you have to search out and take a picture with Bigfoot, see below. We also sat by the pool, enjoyed some cocktails and walked from one end of the town to the other, which takes about 10 minutes. It’s also worth taking the short stroll down to the source of the Hot Springs which is located a little way down from the hotel.

Harrison Hot Springs is so close to Vancouver that it makes it a perfect place for either a weekend getaway or even for a day trip. Like I said there isn’t a lot to do but that is the beauty of visiting Harrison. In all honesty we didn’t really push ourselves to do too much exploring, and that was kind of the whole purpose of the trip to relax and escape from the city for a few days. The hotel is so big that for the short time we were there we didn’t feel the need to venture into town for any food or drink. All in all I really enjoyed my few days there and will be back in the future for more relaxing and hiding away from reality, and maybe some more energetic hiking.

More information about things to do and places to stay in Harrison Hot Springs can be found on the Tourism Harrison website. Happy exploring!

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