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.

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!

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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Leah Explores … Galiano Island

I’m the first to admit that I have not made the most of living in British Columbia or Canada for that fact, and have hardly seen any of this stunning country. Every year I make a promise to myself that I am going to do something about it, but the truth is, it’s pretty expensive to travel within Canada, especially if you want to go from one side of this massive country to the other. Therefore, I  have yet to really explore Canada. I finally made it to Galiano Island this past week whilst my mum is here visiting, and I can’t believe I haven’t been there sooner, especially considering how close it is to Vancouver.

Stay and Eat:
We stayed at the Oceanfront Inn and Spa, which is very conveniently located about a minutes walk from the ferry terminal. There aren’t too many hotels to choose from on the tiny island, but there are B&B’s and rental cabins all up for grabs too. The hotel itself is small and beautiful. Our room had an oceanfront patio, and was both spacious and comfortable,  as well as that our room had the BEST bathtub I have ever been in in my entire life!

We stayed pretty local with our eating (partly because we’re lazy, and partly because the island is so small) and had a delicious dinner at the Attevida restaurant which is part of the hotel, and offers stunning views of the water. We also tried the Sturdies Bay Bakery, located a two minute walk from the hotel, for a coffee and croissant for breakfast the next day, and then went back to the hotel and had some of their fire roasted pizza for lunch that was absolutely scrumptious. Finally, because it was lovely and hot it seemed like the best excuse to indulge in an ice cream at Scoops.

Things to do:
Galiano Island is tiny (27.5 km’s or 17miles) so most things to do there are either nature related – hiking, kayaking etc. – or based upon relaxation. We definitely leaned towards the relaxation side of things. Our hotel had a spa attached which we didn’t take advantage of this time (but would definitely do on a return visit) and this is definitely one of the main draws. I’m not going to lie, both of us are easy to please and were excited to have a look around and just relax.

Luckily for us, our hotel also offered Smart Cars for hire, which we took advantage off and set out to explore the island from one end to the other. There are some points of interest on the island, which include Montague Harbour as well as Bellhouse Provincial Park, Bluff’s Peak and Bodega Ridge. You can also pass right through the 49th parallel which is kinda cool. I definitely recommend embracing the adventure and “getting lost” because honestly, the island is so small you can’t really go wrong. We stumbled upon a lovely little secluded oceanfront area that was just a short walk along a flat trail.

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Beautiful Galiano oceanfront views

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Montague Harbour

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Bellhouse Provincial Park
Getting there:
As I already said getting to the Oceanfront Inn and Spa is beyond easy. Getting to Galiano Island is equally easy too. BC Ferries run a route to and from Tsawwassen daily, and depending on what time of year you visit there are more or less departures, the route takes about an hour. Galiano is tiny, and I don’t think a car is necessarily an essential, depending on where you’re going on the island and what you want to do. Taking a bike might be a better option, especially when you take into consideration how much the ferry costs jump up for taking a car. Walking and hitch hiking are pretty common on the island, so don’t be surprised if you see someone with their thumb in the air at the side of the road.

Galiano Island was absolutely beautiful and I honestly cannot believe I haven’t been there in the five and a half years I have been living in Vancouver, especially considering how close it is. I would definitely like to go back and do some more exploring, and maybe even some hiking. Because of it’s proximity to the mainland it is a great option for a weekend break as well as a day trip. It is is the sort of place where there is a stunning view around every corner, and a great place to relax and unwind. Happy exploring!

 

Leah Explores … Carmel

Carmel-by-the-sea is a small beach city in California, but what sets it apart from every other beach city in California (and lets face it, there are a lot) is that this place looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. The buildings are quaint and distinct, and there is a small town feel this idyllic beach city, I’ve looked at pictures and read all about it, but actually seeing it for myself was a whole other experience.. This place is both stunning and surreal. Post whale watching in Monterey my cousin and I drove 10 minutes south to Carmel-by-the-sea, for a stroll around the town, some lunch and some beach time. This tiny beach town is the perfect spot to visit for the afternoon as it’s small enough to navigate in just a few hours. That said, I think it would be absolutely amazing to go there for a mini break and just completely relax.

There are some super cute independent shops to look in as well as some more well known brands dotted throughout the main strip of town. I definitely recommend looking in Carmel Bay Company for some super cute gifts. There were so many places to eat at we felt a bit spoiled for choice, we settled on PortaBella restaurant which offered Mediterranean inspired cuisine, and had a delicious Croque Monsieur; a perfect spot for refuelling. Before we left we grabbed some yummy coffee from Carmel Coffee House. The Carmel Bakery looked full of deliciousness but I was so full after lunch I didn’t need any temptation. Whilst the town itself if cute, for me the beach was really the highlight. White sandy dunes lead into the Pacific Ocean and the views are just incredible. The weather wasn’t even that great whilst we were there but this place still took my breath away.

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I definitely suggest taking a trip to Carmel if you are in the area, just to see the beautiful city for yourself. As I’ve already said it’s a small place and there isn’t a ton to see and do, it has a more laid back pace to it, but that definitely works to it’s advantage. Have you been there? What’s your favourite thing to do? Favourite place to see? Let me kn0w in the comments. Happy exploring!

Leah Explores … Wilder Ranch State Park

Wilder Ranch, was one of those places that unexpectedly took my breath away and will forever be one of the most beautiful places I accidentally stumbled upon. I actually can’t take any credit for discovering this stunning place, it’s all down to the friend of my cousin who recommended it as a great day out. We decided to take a risk and packed up a picnic, some supplies and the wagon to put the children in when they got fed up of walking, and set off for an adventure.

Located just north of Santa Cruz, Wilder Ranch State Park occupies 7000 acres of coastal ranch land. Formerly a working dairy ranch, there are still signs of the lands former purpose, as the farmhouse and  a lot of the old buildings have been restored as museums. But, in all honesty, if you are going to Wilder Ranch it’s all about the hiking, and surrounding yourself in the natural beauty of the area.

There are ample trails located around the park, which are (for the most part) flat and easily accessible by foot, bike and even horse. The trails hug the cliffs offering unspoiled views of the Pacific Ocean. We did a 2.5mile round hike that took us to ‘Fern Grotto’ a secluded cove, complete with caves and a beautiful sandy beach. For the few hours we were there only two other people came down, and (luckily for us) they only stayed for a few minutes. Definitely make sure that you pack for all situations on your trip. This place is pretty isolated and there are no gift shops around to grab some water or any other essentials you may need. Anyway, enough of my ramblings, because I could honestly go on about how awesome Wilder Ranch State Park is all day, but instead I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

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Leah Explores … The Monterey Canyon

After my stint in San Francisco I headed inland for a bit of a family catch up to see my cousin and her family, as well as to do a bit more exploring, in some lesser know places. My first stop along the way was to go whale watching in Monterey.

We went out with Monterey Bay Whale Watch on a trip which lasted around 4 hours. Fun fact, these were the group who took out Big Blue Live last year. The great thing about these guys is that they are marine biologists so they actually know what they are talking about, and what to look out for. The boat was pretty big, it held about 120 people, but they have a speaker system so that you don’t miss any of the information they give you, which can include sightings, species and geographical information. This is particularly helpful when they can tell you that a whale has been spotted, cue me speed walking to the front of the boat.

The crew on the boat were really helpful, walking around making sure that everyone was alright throughout the trip. A special shout out to my cousin who powered through the freezing temperatures with horrible seasickness, she was the real MVP! I would definitely recommend layering up, I had one four layers, and could have honestly done with four more, it was freezing out there. Also take some sea sickness tablets, it’s better safe than sorry. My cousin took them and was still really sick, so I dread to think what she would have been like if she didn’t.

The trip took us out over the Monterey Canyon which is a submarine canyon big enough to rival the Grand Canyon, therefore making it abundant in marine life. We were really lucky on out trip, we saw a Sealions, Dolphins, Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish), Humpbacks, Orca’s and most spectacularly of all a Blue Whale. Sadly I was stood on the wrong side of the boat when the Humpbacks surfaced, and there was no breaching by any of the whales (of course with my luck there was later in the day) but it was still an amazing day. Being able to say that I have seen a Blue Whale is something that I never even dreamed off, and is definitely something I will treasure forever. Here are some of my photo’s from the trip. Enjoy!

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Mola Mola (Ocean Sunfish)
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Dolphins
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Blue Whale hump (the tiny black hump)
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Orca’s
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Orca’s