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!

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Leah Explores … San Francisco¬†

I have been wanting to go to San Francisco for so long, and I finally made it happen! Luckily it more than exceeded my expectations, and all the hype my friends had had was not misplaced. I had two and a half days in the city, and although I covered a lot I feel like I hardy scratched the surface, which in my opinion is the perfect excuse to go Hotel Mark Twainback and explore more in the future.

Stay:
I stayed at the Hotel Mark Twain which was conveniently located just a few blocks away from Union Square. It was pretty reasonably priced (for San Francisco) given the location. It even had a secret garden tucked away out the back that was the perfect place to sit and sip a coffee and hideaway from the city for a little while. The staff were also helpful, when it came to advice on directions and places to avoid, and there was a helpful guide book in the room that listed some local restaurants and bars. I would definitely stay here again, the bed was comfy, the place was clean, there were some quirky touches and like I already said the location was pretty great.

Getting Around:
San Francisco was a surprisingly easy city to navigate, and the public transport was pretty easy to master. I did a lot of walking whilst in the city, mainly because it is my favourite way to explore a new city and stumble across something unexpected. I used the BART to get from the airport to the city, which cost $8.95 and was painless. I also took the MUNI  a couple of times, which is $2.25 for a 90 minute transfer. Leaving San Francisco to head to San Jose I used the Caltrain, which was painless, and cost $12.95, the journey took just under two hours and was a great way to head into the Silicon Valley area without hiring a car. Of course the most fun way to get around is on a cable car, it was $7 for a single ride which was all I needed to do. However, it is worth bearing in mind that for $20 you can get a day pass and ride as much as you like.

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The most fun way to get around.

Things to do:
There is so much to see and do in San Francisco, I feel like what I saw was just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll admit I went into full tourist mode, in an effort to see as much as I could in the little time I had. In my two and a half days in the city I managed to see Alcatraz, Union Square, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Coit Tower, Ghiradelli Square, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach, Lombard Street, Chinatown, the Ferry Building, Twin Peaks and to squeeze in a ride on the infamous cable cars. I also did a Vantigo Tour which was a great way to see the city in a more authentic way than some of the bigger tour buses, and the tour guides were insightful and hilarious. The tour also took me to some of the places that were on my list but I knew would be a bit tricky to get to, which was super convenient.
My highlights were definitely seeing the sea lions at Fisherman’s Wharf, the views from Twin Peaks, riding the cable cars, and of course seeing the Golden Gate Bridge in person.

To say I loved San Francisco would be a huge understatement. I ran out of time to do all the hundreds of things that I wanted to do, but I am definitely looking forward to going back in the future, exploring some of the neighbourhoods in more depth, and ticking more things off my San Francisco bucket list.