I know, I know… I’ve been delinquent with my posts. At least I have a good excuse! I recently celebrated my 30th birthday! My very good friend and I took off to Vegas for four days and it was incredible. Yes, I’m aware of the mantra of “What happens in Vegas..” But I fully intend to share the details of my experience. Not today though! That’s for next week. I’m starting off with the Grand Canyon because that’s the part of the trip we were both most excited to see. We started our day at the crack of dawn, having to pack before leaving to get our rental car. We left our road trip for the last day, I’m still not sure that was a wise decision. The sights are stunning for the majority of the drive, and the drive is fairly uneventful. Our rental car had satellite radio which was a blessing and we sang along to the hits of the 90’s as the desert flew by us. To say the sun is bright is an understatement, it is the brightest light I’ve ever witnessed in my life. There is no escape from the sun either, and the drive to the canyon is blinding in the morning (even with sunglasses and tinted windows). I’m not exaggerating in the slightest. The drive to the west rim of the canyon is actually only about two and a half hours from Las Vegas. Originally we thought it was around five hours, hence the super early start to the day. About half way there, we stopped at a little diner. It was your typical greasy spoon in the middle of nowhere and it was delicious! We took our breakfast to go and kept driving. We just wanted to get there. As the canyon started to come into our vision, we could hardy believe our eyes. It is magnificent! The colours, size… everything, it’s breathtaking. Pictures don’t begin to do it justice. There is a spiritual experience that occurs when you visit, that is unexplainable. We drove to the parking lot and paid for our tickets ($43 US approx.). We then boarded a bus that takes you to three stops along the rim. The first is Hualapai Ranch, which mostly for children. Our second stop was Eagle Point, that was my favourite. The rocks actually form an eagle with its wings spread. At this point I was still beyond terrified of the edge and was shaking like a leaf; but it was stunning nonetheless. After a bunch of photo op’s, we ventured over to Guano Point which is where they mined for guano beginning in the 1930’s and created a tram that went over the canyon 8,800 feet. There is an actual pointed rock formation that delivers 360 degree views and makes for really neat pictures, but it is treacherous in flip flops (I’m aware I’m an idiot for that fashion choice). We stayed for quite awhile here before heading back, stopping in town for a souvenir spoon (they were sold out at the canyon). We also took a little detour to the Hover Dam on our drive back to Vegas. Parking was a bit of a nightmare and we found a little place to stop for pictures on the way out. After that we got some dinner and then killed time at Starbucks until we could head to the airport. Being the only licensed driver, I was pretty exhausted and didn’t want to drive anymore, but we both were by this point. The flight home was cold and uncomfortable but I passed out once I got home! Over all it was an incredible trip with the perfect travel buddy; I couldn’t have asked for a better way to ring in the big thirty!
As anyone who knows me can vouch for, I am an avid supporter and encourager of all things Pilates, because it’s done wonders for me. When I was in high school, I remember seeing infomercials for Windsor Pilates; it peaked my interest but I couldn’t afford the tapes at the time. Over the years I continued to hear Pilates pop up here and there in conversation or on television. Finally about four years ago I bought a Stott Pilates DVD; I began doing it regularly and I really noticed my body firming up. Laziness kicked in though and eventually I stopped the DVD. I’m definitely not the best at self motivation. After my dad got diagnosed with cancer, I needed an outlet for my stress and took up running. The problem was I didn’t know how to run properly and it caused a whole host of issues for my legs. My new ailments combined with some recurring back pain caused so much physical pain, it made me miserable. There was no release for my stress anymore and I was suffering on every level. When I decided I was travelling to Europe it concerned me that I wouldn’t make it for four months, not in my current physical state. As it so happens, there is a very reputable Pilates studio up the street from my home and I decided to give try. It was like a light bulb switched on in my head and I was hooked. The back pain eased and my legs got stronger and (as we all know) I made it through those four months in Europe. It was such a positive experience and I loved it so much, I decided to continue when I returned. This February, I took it to the next level and began their instructor training program. It’s not an easy road, but I believe in Pilates and it’s effectiveness. When I’m able to do an exercise that I wasn’t able to do before or I notice a muscle I didn’t have a year ago; I feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment. My whole body has transformed; I’m stronger, leaner and more flexible. That has fed into my eating habits and, over all, I’m a much healthier and happier person. I have a long way to go physically and with my training but I know I’ll get there eventually.
This is my passion.
So it’s official, I’m a student again. Last week I started both my photography and French classes and, so far, I am really enjoying them both. My classes are my inspiration for this week’s post of Monet’s garden. Monet’s house is located in Giverny, France and the expansive garden was his inspiration for many of his famous paintings. Do you see why I chose this subject this week? Above are close up pictures of some beautiful flowers from the garden (Note: The first two photos are edited but third is untouched). They were absolutely spectacular in person and it was nearly impossible to select which to include in this post. Easily, I could make dozens of posts about this garden and the beauty that exists in it. It really is no wonder Monet called this his home.
For a more detailed account please see my previous post on Giverny, France.
This picture was chosen strictly for it’s ability to make me smile. Today I looked through hundreds of pictures trying to find inspiration for this weeks post, but my brain just couldn’t focus. Work and schooling are becoming more stressful and are taking up all my time. Scrolling past this photo made me crack a smile and when I passed it for a second time I smiled just the same. Then I began remembering how happy I was in Barcelona. It was such a milestone visit on my trip and a huge reason I even went back to Europe. Yes, I miss it terribly; I’m also blessed to have experienced such a journey. This picture brought me happiness today, just as Barcelona brought me happiness then. That’s why pictures are so important, because even when your brain forgets, they are with you forever. And, if your really lucky, those photos will bring a smile to your face too.
Some weeks are more difficult to choose my blog topic than others; this was one such week. Looking through my pictures often helps me when I’m feeling particularly stuck. Today my inspiration came from a video I stumbled upon from a boat tour I took in Montreux, Switzerland. Avid readers of my blog will know I’ve already done a post on this city, but I couldn’t help myself again. This is truly one of the most stunningly beautiful places I have ever been! These photos are all taken at dawn, which is when I both arrived and departed Montreux. It’s so peaceful that early, with just the odd person out jogging or walking their dog. The colours of the scenery beginning to come to life as the sun rises into the sky is utterly breathtaking. I’ve included the quintessential Freddie Mercury statue photography in this post as well (how could I not?). Below is also the aforementioned boat tour video, which clearly shows the twinkling turquoise waters of Lake Geneva. That particular shade of water, I have yet to see anywhere else. Montreux has an unparalleled beauty that must be seen to be understood.
As much as this blog is about travelling, it’s also about the pictures I’ve taken along the way. On the topic of last weeks post about school; I signed up for a French course and a photography course, both of which start in September. I’m really excited to learn more and expand creatively. With that in mind, I took a couple of shots this past week that I really liked and decided to share them here. Hopefully you enjoy them as well.
Currently I am studying to become a Pilates teacher and I’ve been in class for the past two weeks. Therefore, I have decided to reminisce about my time at school in France. In my head I couldn’t justify a trip like mine without learning something in the process; for me, that meant studying French. I already had some background but wanted to learn how to converse more confidently. After much research, I decided on EF Language School which has campuses worldwide. Their Nice campus was a no brainer for me because of my love for the city and the beach. The last time I was in school was in 2009, so understandably I was nervous going back to a school in a foreign country. Luckily I made friends at the residency on the first day and we pulled together for the first little bit. During the summer months, EF uses the University of Nice’s dorms for it’s students. I never lived in dorms before and enjoyed having my own room for that time. My new friends were both at different levels of French understanding and so we were split up in class. The great thing is most people didn’t know anyone else either and we all warmed up to each other fairly easily. The actual classes were quite long days overall and we could only speak French. Some days it was too intense on my brain and other days it was manageable. I surprised myself with what I could remember from my schooling back in the day. Quickly, I started to think in French and I got fairly comfortable with speaking. Making friends with local shop owners helped too. The Nicoise people are so welcoming and upon learning I was in school, they would encourage me to speak to them. Nice feels like home to me now and I miss it a great deal. EF Language School was a wonderful learning experience and I met a lot of amazing people. I’ll be continuing my studies of French this fall at night school. Above I’ve included a neat shot of the Promenade des Anglais from the lookout at dusk. After the heat of the day has subsided, all the street performers come out to play and the energy becomes electric. The promenade is a buzz into the wee hours of the morning, as is most of the area around the old town. EF’s unofficial bar is called Sansas and it’s just off Place Massena, which is the stunningly beautiful main square. They host a variety of events for the students there, including quiz night and salsa dancing. Being immersed in a language from all directions made all the difference for me. My time in Nice and at EF was invaluable and a memory I will cherish always.
As I have mentioned countless times in my posts, by the end of my trip I was not feeling the best physically. Crete came after Athens and Santorini, both of which took the last ounces of energy I had left; therefore, Crete became a place of rest for me. This photo is from my beach front hotel, which while not nearly as glamorous as it appears here, was very comfortable and clean. The view was by far my favourite part about my stay; I mean just look at it! My time on the island was spent in those beach chairs below. Safely planted in the first row by the water, I ordered a lot of drinks and food and sunbathed until my hearts content. In my spare time, I ventured along the single street my hotel was situated to do some shopping or dine out. No, I didn’t see much of what Crete has to offer, but I had a blissful experience to say the least. I will say this though, Greece had some of the best food I ate on my entire trip! Luckily, on my arrival I befriended a nice taxi driver who gave me a discount to my hotel (saving me because I had no more cash on me and couldn’t find the bus station). He gave me his number and I called him to take me to the airport when I left. Another person I met was Bruno, my server on the beach. He was such a nice man and took especially good care of me; even saving my chair for me on both my second and third day. Being in the service industry myself, I sincerely appreciate it when someone goes a little above. Thank you to those two men, you made my time in Crete that much better.
London was one of the few places that I had a list of all the sites I wanted to visit. One of my must-do items was the London Eye. It was fairly close to my hostel, so I made my way over first thing in the morning on my third day in London. I decided I’d buy my tickets to the London Eye first and then go back later in the day. After waiting in line for tickets for a long time (note: buy in advance), I learned you could purchase in advance for a specific time. On the advice of the attendant I made a reservation for 8:30pm. It was dusk as I lined up to board the ride and by the time I was in the air the sun had set. The last slivers of light slipped away to darkness and all of London lit up. The city sparkling below me was absolutely magical and I’m so happy I opted for that late ride. The first picture above, of one of the carriages with Big Ben in the background, took me the entire ride to capture. I didn’t think I’d get that shot and I’m really happy it came out (even though it’s on an iPhone camera). The second photo is now the wallpaper on my home screen; I just love the angle of the shot and the sky behind. Definitely some of my favourite photographs from London and one of the neatest experiences. At the end of the ride a little warning is announced to stand on the marks for your picture to be taken. It happens very quickly, much like on a roller coaster ride, and only myself and one other family heard the announcement. So, if souvenirs are your cup of tea, now you know!
This week, I had a couple days off and ran away to my favourite place, Wasaga Beach. I’m sure your scratching your head with that statement given my extensive beach repertoire. It’s my favourite because it’s one of the few places I feel close to my dad. It’s funny how certain places, smells or sounds can bring up so much emotion. It will be three years next week since we lost him and not a day goes by that I don’t miss him terribly. Wasaga Beach is nostalgic for me because as a teenager we came up each year to the cottage in Tiny Township. My step-sisters and I would get dropped off on the main beach and hang out all day, parent free. The beaches were too rocky for our liking in Tiny, but our parents enjoyed the quiet. So many of my memories from that time revolve around these shores; from getting ice cream after dinner, to going to the drive in, to taking the boat out fishing or visiting my godfather and his family. When I’m here the memories come flooding back around every corner. My friends and I also used a local campground for some post high school partying, including prom night. It’s one of those places that never seems to change either. Shops have closed and the strip is showing it’s wear; but it’s still very much the same as it was a decade ago. The biggest change is the the shopping area of the main beach that was lost to the fire a few years back; it’s noticeably empty and feels unfinished. When I visit I like to lay out closer to the beach 2 boarder, where it’s less crowded and noisy. Usually, I only get to come up for day trips but this year I got to stay for two nights. The Luau Resort is near beach 2 and is very clean, cozy and well maintained. The heated pool is a nice bonus and the view of the river is a pretty backdrop. This is the most peaceful and happy I’ve felt since I came back from Europe. My favourite feeling is that of being sandy, sun kissed and smelling of campfire.
This is definitely my happy place!