Top Ten … Coachella Tips

Coachella is just around the corner kicking off the music festival season. I’m sadly not going to Coachella this year, but I’ve been the previous two years, and have had an absolutely amazing time. Here are my top ten tips on how to get the most out of your festival experience, make your life a little bit easier and most importantly help you have fun!

 

  1. GET A LOCKER – We didn’t get one the first year, but we did last year and it was honestly the best $34 I have spent. Plus you get $20 back when you return the key so it’s really only $14. It meant that when we left our tent in the morning we could load up with everything we needed for the day and night; cardigans, hats, sunscreen, change of shoes, and not have to worry about looking like crazy bag ladies. Believe me when I say it gets cold in the desert at night, and changing into leggings and a long sleeve shirt or cardigan makes all the difference after being in the blistering sun all day.
  2. LAYERS AND SUNSCREEN – I cannot stress how hot it can get in the desert during the day and how cold it can be once the sun sets. Make sure to apply sunscreen regularly, you don’t want to get burnt on Friday and be miserable for the rest of the weekend. Wearing a hat is a great way to stay cool and keep the sun off your face too. The layers are for nighttime, waiting around for the headliner to start it gets pretty chilly, so being able to add an extra layer or put more clothes on is a welcome addition. Be prepared for all weather conditions too, the first year we went, there was a crazy sandstorm, and I was so glad I had a scarf and sunglasses with me so I could cover my face.
  3. FREEBIES – Make the most of the freebies available. Sephora has an amazing booth that has hair and make up stations so you can make yourself look picture perfect ready to step over to the photo station. One year they were giving away hair ties as you entered, another year they had a Instagram powered vending machine that dropped a prize when you posted with a certain hashtag. Another booth was giving away Fruttare ice lollies, and last year the JBL booth had free massages, and an awesome photo booth.
  4. GET MERCHANDISE EARLY – If you want to get something from the merchandise booth I advise you do it early, especially if you are there for Weekend 2. Sizes and styles sell out, so don’t wait and end up disappointed. Plus if you get a locker you can just put your new t-shirt, poster, tote in there and not have to worry about it for the rest of the day.
  5. USE POLO GROUND TOILETS – This is something I wish I had discovered earlier, porter potties are the worst part of the festival experience, in my opinion. There are a couple of real washrooms located in the festival ground, near the Craft Beer Barn. Don’t be put off by the long lines, they move quickly and it is so worth the wait for flushing toilets and sinks with running water and soap. If you find that you need to use the porter potties, I suggest going to the very back where they have washrooms in trailers which are a step up from the porter potties. If all else fails and you find yourself having to use the porter potties, do so early in the morning. They get emptied and cleaned overnight so are pretty bearable early in the morning.
  6. NO METAL TENT PEGS ALLOWED – We had our metal tent pegs taken away from us before we entered the camp ground the first year we went. You can buy plastic tent pegs at the general store in the camp ground, but we didn’t discover that until the last day, and so ended up using water bottles and suitcases to weigh our tent down; not the best plan in the world especially when there is a crazy sandstorm happening. My advice; take out your metal tent pegs and buy some plastic tent pegs in advance.
  7. MAKE A NOTE OF KEY LOCATIONS – The camp ground is huge, make sure you know which street your tent is on, or where you need to go to get picked up, there is nothing worse than coming back to the camp ground after a long day to find yourself aimlessly wandering looking for you tent or pick up point. Another tip I would recommend would be to arrange to have a plan should you get separated from your party. Pick a tent, sculpture, booth to go to should you end up split up from the rest of your group so you don’t spend hours looking for one another among the thousands of people in the grounds.
  8. USE THE APP – Plan ahead and use the app. It is a great way to plan the lineup you want to see and arranges it by time and stage, giving you a rough idea of when you should head to different stage to see an artist. The app also has a list of vendors, as well as a map which can be incredibly helpful if this is your first time at the festival. Look at the line up beforehand, you can listen to artists you aren’t familiar with and maybe even make a new discovery that you might want to check out. Festivals are a great place to discover new artists.
  9. HYDRATE, HYDRATE, HYDRATE! – You cannot take food or drink into the festival grounds, but you can take an empty or reusable water bottle so you can refill it at one of the many water stations dotted around the festival ground. Sometimes the lines can be pretty long, but they tend to move quickly, filling up once a set has started is the best time as the lines are a lot shorter. There are many vendors selling water, but at $2 a bottle it can quickly add up whilst you are trying to stay hydrated in the hot desert sun.
  10. GET A BATTERY PACK – Yes, there are charging stations located throughout the festival grounds, but they are always very crowded. Some of the booths have charging stations too, but once again you are not guaranteed a space, and if you are camping you don’t want to have to turn your car on just to charge your phone. I got myself a battery pack, and it was a bit of a lifesaver, as it was small enough to stick in my purse and charge my phone on the go. Make sure you put your phone on flight mode whilst charging as it makes the whole process a lot faster.

Most importantly make sure you enjoy yourself, Coachella is such a wonderful experience so make the most of it! Explore the festival grounds as it is full of amazing sculptures, booths and fun things to see. Whilst it is great to see your favourite artist, try and mix it up and see new artists and bands you might not have heard of before, festivals are wonderful places to discover the next big thing. I once read that you should treat festivals as taster sessions as you can always catch your favourite artist next time they come to town. I try to stick with that theory to some extent, but sometimes you just have to see the entire set, so soak up every minute and enjoy!

 

 

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Leah Explores … Capitol Hill and Ballad

Last weekend, I went of my first trip of the year, with three of my best friends to celebrate one of their birthdays. We went to Seattle to explore Capitol Hill and Ballad, and I had a fantastic time. It was so nice to go to somewhere familiar like Seattle, but avoid doing all the cliche tourist things that I have done so many times before. The main purpose of our trip was to eat, drink and be merry,whilst doing some exploring and boy did we succeed!

We rented an Air B&B apartment in Capitol Hill, which is the trendy residential area to the east of the main downtown core, where there are restaurants, coffee shops and bars aplenty. After a painless trip across the boarder on the Boltbus we headed out to explore.

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The water tower in Volunteer Park

First up was Unicorn, a carnival themed bar just a short stroll from our apartment. It was here that I had one of the most delicious and outrageous meals I have ever eaten; a cornbread waffle pulled pork sandwich. Believe me when I say it was as a good as it sounds. I paired this beast of a dish with a ‘Unicorn Jizz’ coacktail (I couldn’t resist the name) which was ridiculously sweet and yummy! We then headed over to Elysian Brewing, to start on the craft beer portion of the weekend. I have a confession to make here, I’m no beer aficionado, but I was promised by my friend that by the end of the weekend I would be one step closer to being so. I started off with the Day Glow IPA followed by a glass of the Splitshot which was a milk stout and absolutely delightful. From here we wandered over to Rhein Haus which is a cavernous bar that was very lively and offered drinks by the litre. Our final stop of the night was decided to keep it classy and went just a few doors down to Cannon, a fancy bar that describes itself as a “whiskey and bitters emporium” where I had a very yummy, but very strong gin based cocktail called a Hotel Georgia.

Saturday saw the peak of our exploring. We started out late morning when we headed for brunch in a lovely little spot in Capitol Hill called Witness. Once again I indulged in another over the top decadent meal (treat yo’ self, am I right?) called a Croque’d Toad, it was described to us by our waiter as being like a toad in the hole, a croque monsieur and eggs Benedict having a baby. He wasn’t far off with the description and it was every bit as good as I imagined it would be. We then walked over to Volunteer Park, where there were some stunning views of the city from the top of the water tower (which also helped burn some calories!) From here we headed back to our apartment for a quick rest to recharge our batteries before he headed out for round two.

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The Croque’d Toad at Witness

The first stop on Saturday take two was Poquito’s, also in Capitol Hill, to make the most of their happy hour and enjoy some yummy margarita’s and guacamole. From here we Uber’d (is that a verb?) over to Ballad which is another neighbourhood located to the North West of the city, for the craft beer section of our day. We began in Stoup Brewing, where I tried the Pale Ale and the American sour.We then walked around the corner (literally) to Reuben’s Brews where I had my favourite craft beers of the weekend; the Seattle Milk Stout and the Cherry Weisse. Both were absolutely delicious and I would definitely have both again. Our final stop of the craft beer tour was Populuxe Brewing, which was by far the smallest venue tucked away in a tiny little house. Here I tried the Ballad Blonde and American Stout, rounding out my attempts to become a craft beer connoisseur. By this point, some of us (no names mentioned) had had our fill of craft beer. We headed west to the historic district of Ballad Avenue, which is full of bars, restaurants, and shops. We had dinner at Bitterroot BBQ a trendy rustic style restaurant where we shared ‘The Cowboy Killer” platter, which was yummy.

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Flights of craft beer at Stoup Brewing

By Sunday, it was safe to say we were all a bit tired, so we had a nice relaxing morning in our apartment before we had to be out at noon. Our first port of call was Porchlight Coffee and Records just a short walk away. We enjoyed some delicious coffee and relaxed in this lovely little coffee shop for a while. Afterwards we stopped in at The Elliot Bay Book Company, somewhere I was particularly excited to go to. I can’t resist a good independent book store, and this one was particularly dreamy. Next, we stopped by the Starbucks Roastery and Tasting Room on Pike Street (when in Seattle…) for a quick look around. Across the street was Six Arms, a pub that had a great beer selection, where two of my friends had been before, here I had the Terminator Stout and the very yummy Pomegranate Cider. Our final stop for our time in Seattle was the Cheesecake Factory. As a bunch of Brit’s living in Canada, we were all pretty excited to get our fix of enormous portions and of course,  decadent cheesecake.

Our journey back to Canada on the Bolt Bus was as pain free as our journey down, and we arrived back to some classic Vancouver weather; rain. All in all, I had a fantastic weekend, and I loved exploring a different side of Seattle that I hadn’t seen before,  I felt like it was a great way to reinvigorate a city where I felt I had seen it all before. I would highly recommend Capitol Hill as a great way to see a different side of the city.

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Sneaky Space Needle views from Capitol Hill

 

Moving to Canada – My Experiences

What brought me to Canada in the first place?

This story starts many years ago, 2009 in fact. I had graduated university and had no idea what I was going to do with my life, my degree didn’t lead me to any set career, and I had no yearning for any particular pathway.

That summer I had gone on a Contiki tour of America, the southern states to be precise, where I met some amazing people. One of the people I met had just been living in Whistler for a year, and by the sounds of it she had had an absolutely amazing time, and another girl was heading to Canada for a year following our trip. That was it; the seeds had been planted! I returned home and immediately started researching moving to Canada. From there I contacted BUNAC (who used to have the monopoly on visa’s) and filled out all of the appropriate forms and sent them off. It was all straight forward.

I was accepted, I booked my flights for November and I waited. Then in August, I freaked out … I hadn’t saved enough! What if I didn’t make any friends? What would I do for work? How would I quit the job I currently had? What about leaving my family? I knew I had to enter Canada by January 31st 2011, if I wanted to use this visa, so I moved my flight back to January 11th. It was one of the last group flights (basically, you’re on the same flight as other people with working holiday visas, and get transfers from the airport and the first nights accommodation sorted)  BUNAC had left, and those extra few months gave me enough time to sort myself out, save a bit more money and make peace with my choices.

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The view from the top of Whistler Blackcomb.

My story!

This isn’t as straightforward as I moved to Canada, loved it here and never left, when is life ever that simple? My original plan looked a little something like this; fly into Vancouver, work for a few months save a bit of money, travel across the country, check out some of the sights along the way, end up in Toronto, work there for a few months, fly home. Obviously, that plan didn’t get seen through to the end, in fact I’m still on step one.

I arrived January 11th 2011 and lived in a hostel for three weeks. Then I found an apartment share and moved in there, I was feeling a bit nervous because I still didn’t have a job and I’d spent a lot of money having fun in those first three weeks. The apartment was alright, it wasn’t great, I was living with a stranger I’d found on Craigslist, it definitely wasn’t an ideal situation. Then after what felt like a lifetime I got a job (five years later I’m still there!) it was only part time to start with but it was a step in the right direction, after a month or so I went up to full time. From there I moved into another apartment, it was still a flat share I found on Craigslist, but it was closer to work, with a nicer roommate and just a better fit for me. About half way through the year, I was starting to feel like maybe a 12 months wasn’t long enough. I knew I was able to apply for one more one year visa, so I started the process, only it wasn’t as easy as it had been before, getting access to a printer was a pain, and I was having to ask my Dad to go to the bank and get a letter that I needed, or send out a certificate that I didn’t have with me. Then came the realisation that I had missed the deadline to apply for a new visa … by a day!!!!! I looked into different options to stay in Canada while I applied for a new visa once mine had expired, top and bottom of it is that I couldn’t. So I made the most of the time I had left, and eventually the time had come for me to leave.

On January 10th 2012 I flew back to England, promising my friends and colleagues that I would be back in no time, six to eight weeks tops, after all it had been so simple and effortless last time I applied for a visa. Oh how naive was I? You see 2012 was the first year that the International Experience Canda visa’s came into play, and there was a massive backlog of applications. I’ll admit it didn’t help that I missed a signature on my first set of forms and had to resend them, but all together it took six months there about for my new visa to come through, finally I was heading back to Canada. Ultimately I was lucky with my timing, when I originally came to Canada I came on a Student Working Holiday visa. Then, in 2012 the IEC visa’s came into play, and mean that regardless of having had previous visa’s, applicants were allowed to have two one year visa’s, under the IEC working holiday program. This ultimately allowed me to live and work in Canada for three years whilst I decided that I wanted to become a Permantent Resident.

What kept me here?

It took a while for me to realise that Vancouver was where I wanted to be for the foreseeable future, and I think that that stems from the fact that for me, this was always going to be a temporary experience. It took me going back to the UK for six months to seriously consider that Vancouver could become my home. Don’t get me wrong, I love England, but for me I have a much better quality of life here in Vancouver, and I honestly think I am a nicer, better version of myself living here (that sounds so cheesy!)

The process of becoming a Permanent Resident!

Ugh, I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of forms involved, and I mean A LOT!!!! That said, it is doable, don’t be put off by thinking it’s to hard to do. I did it by myself without the help of a lawyer, and I have plenty of friends who did too. The route I took to becoming a Permanent Resident was through the BC PNP (Provincial Nominee Program) which simply put, is where you apply to the province you live in who then (hopefully) say yes we want you, from there you go on to apply to Canada, and after a lot of paperwork and waiting you receive a letter in the mail that will make you do a happy dance. There was, of course, a bump in the road for me. My final one year IEC visa ran out during my PR application, so I had to apply for a bridging visa, which was another set of forms, but gave me two years to continue living and working in Canada whilst my application for Permanent Residency was being processed.

In all seriousness, I am very lucky that one of my best friends had gone through the exact same process 18 months before me and was amazing at answering all of my niggling questions. The internet was also surprisingly helpful, there are tons of blogs and forums dedicated to immigration, and they are there to help you … use them! If I can do it, anyone can!

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The first photo of me as a Permanent Resident at the Canadian boarder, possibly the happiest I’ve ever been!

Why I love Vancouver!

Where to start? The views! Those days when the clouds lift, the skies are a beautiful shade of blue, and I am walking to work and see the city with the mountains in the background, it is hard to imagine loving a city anymore than I love Vancouver. It is an incredibly easy city to live in, people are friendly and there is an inherent sense of safety that is unusual in cities. Vancouver is also on the small side when compared to other major cities, it is incredibly simple to navigate, transit is (for the most part) painless, and a lot of the time you can walk from A to B very easily. Most of all I love the life I have made for myself here, I am proud of what I have got, and I can honestly say that coming to Canada was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I came on a plane with 38 strangers, and today I have a lovely rented apartment, a steady and fun job, and the most amazing group of friends, I’m definitely in a good place!

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Views from the bus in the summer – what’s not to love?

What’s next?

Now I’m a Permanent Resident I feel as if I have a lot more freedom and opportunities, meaning that I have the option to move to a different part of Canada or live in a difference country for a year or two and still maintain my PR status. At present I’m happy to keep Vancouver as my home base. It’s such an easy city to live in, and it’s so easy to access the West Coast, and most of the States, a definite perk! That said, I’m definitely open to the idea of living in a difference city or even country should the mood take me, I guess only time will tell …