Have You Heard?

My colleague and I are planning our first Pilates and Yoga retreat to Costa Rica from February 9-15th, 2020! The final date to reserve your spot is coming up on November 1st, 2019.
If you missed my previous announcements or posts, here is some information on what to expect. Full details and photos available at www.thesleepypineapple.com 
COSTA RICA YOGilates Retreat 2020-6
Details |
7 days and 6 nights
nutritious breakfast and dinner included daily
luxury villa with infinity pool
steps to pristine beaches
daily Yoga and Pilates
private and shared room options
concierge services
group zip-lining excursion included
additional excursions or massage treatments available
one hour private yoga or Pilates session included
includes transfer to and from the airport
This retreat was designed with both relaxation and adventure in mind. This unique approach to our wellness retreat allows you to customize your experience and create the retreat of your dreams.
Included in your package are breakfast and dinner daily, two Pilates or yoga group classes daily, a one-hour private session and a group excursion to nearby Rio Perdido for zip lining, thermal river and hot springs.
Transfer to and from Liberia International Airport is also included. Airfare is not included.
Additional excursions, day trips, private sessions or spa services are available at an additional charge.
What a typical day looks like at the retreat | example
7 am
morning yoga flow to prepare you for your day
8:30 am
a healthy and delicious breakfast is served
9:30 am
A guided run along the beach (optional)
11 am to 5 pm
Forest zip lining excursion with lunch of local delicacies (optional)
6:30 pm
Restorative Pilates class to wind down from your day
7:30 pm
Group dinner with our travel community
We want to encourage you to bond with the group, ask questions to the instructors, start discussions about health or fitness with others or take time out for yourself if needed. This is more than a retreat, this is a self-care experience. Embrace your wellbeing.
Pricing |
Oceanview King Room with balcony and ensuite (double occupancy)                    $2650
Shared twin room with ensuite                $1950
Shared queen room with ensuite             $2150
Prices are per person in CDN dollars. Taxes extra (13%). Shared rooms have two beds per room. Maximum 10 guests in the villa.
Please inquire for single occupancy pricing.
Room options are available on a first-come-first-served basis and are subject to availability.
Airfare is not included and is the responsibility of the guest to arrange. Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia is just 25 minutes to the property.
Excursions and massage services are available at an additional cost and can be arranged prior to the retreat. Should you wish to wait until you arrive or organize a last-minute excursion, there will be booking options available from the concierge and are subject to availability.
Please inquire for available options.
Individual or semi-private Pilates or Yoga sessions are available at an additional cost of $80 (cdn) per session for up to 3 people. This is a great option if you are unfamiliar with these modalities or if you want personalized clarifications, adjustments or modifications.
For bookings or more information please contact Shawn Marie by email at hello@thesleepypineapple.com or by submitting your inquiry below. 
To reserve your space a 50% non-refundable payment is required. The remaining 50% payment is due by November 1st, 2019 and is non-refundable.
We understand that there are circumstances out of our control but unfortunately, due to the nature of the retreat, all payments must be non-refundable.
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Travelling- Then & Now

Firstly, 2013 was not that long ago; a mere 6 years and yet when referencing travelling internationally and how much data and mobile usage have changed in that time, it might as well be a lifetime!
IMG_4742_editedMy first major experience of travelling internationally was in 2010 and we used hostel computers to send emails back home. The idea of mobile data was still a foreign concept to me, as I still had a basic flip phone and therefore, not having data access was not at all out of the ordinary for me. Flash forward to 2013 and my first iPhone (yes, I waited until the 5 to get onboard from my Blackberry) was practically glued to me at all times. The novelty of a smartphone had just been experienced and I was hooked. This new found freedom to Google wherever and whenever and download app after app to play addictive games to waste hours upon hours was such a new experience for me. Which is what made my 2013 trip that much more difficult to get through without the easy access I was now accustomed to. At the time, Rogers who is my service provider, had 3 package options while travelling. I can’t remember the specifics but each one came with talk and text plans but no data whatsoever. I easily blew through my plans each month I was away (4 in total) and would have to get another and sometimes another still. If you used one plan up, you had to wait until your next billing cycle to get that same plan again, which meant I’d have to get the increasingly less talk and text plans as the month went on. Calling cards worked too but they can be a hassle to purchase and dial in a rush, so out of convenience I’d use my cell phone. My biggest reasons for using the talk and text up was of course due to travelling alone, I’d call my mother or a friend to chat or tell them about some amazing thing I saw that day. But often, I’d also use up my plans to call my mother for help finding a place or a phone number I needed if lost. I had written out loads of directions to my hostels, etc. before leaving and yet, inevitably, I’d end up lost or confused and need help. Asking strangers for directions in a place you can’t speak the language, sometimes very early in the morning or late in the night, is not the best of ideas as a female travelling alone. About halfway through my trip I was introduced to City Maps which is an offline GPS mapping app that allows you to search for addresses or places, gives directions and shows you which direction you are walking. The issue was you had to download the maps while using Wifi so if you forgot (like I did in Bilbao at 11pm) then you were screwed and would have to use your data to download or find a traditional map. I had used maps prior to learning about the app but sometimes the map wouldn’t show enough of the city and would be essentially useless for me to find my hostel. Also, nothing screams #tourist more than a giant map. That evening in Bilbao nothing was even open to find a map, so I opted to download the map and was hit with a $65 charge at home for the 2 mins it took to download. It’s also worrisome until you get your updated usage to know if you’ve properly turned off all the data roaming and mobile data so you would not be accidentally charged. The whole experience was a dance of plans and phone calls and map downloading and timing it all as best as I could and there was much room for error. In total, I spent upwards of $1500 in extra charges and plan fees during that trip and remember I had no data usage except that one charge either.
A while ago Rogers announced a “roam like home” feature which essentially allows you to use your current plan to travel to the US and Europe for an additional charge per day. For the US it is $7 /day and to Europe, it is $12/ day up to a maximum charge of 15 days per billing cycle. After 15 days, you do not pay more and keep using your current plan as normal! That means in comparison my trip to Europe now would result in a bill of only $720 with data usage for 4 months. I only just got to use this new option as I hadn’t been away in some time and so I was a bit nervous and apprehensive that I’d somehow come home to a crazy bill again. I read and re-read the description and small print to verify I didn’t have to turn off anything while travelling or that I’d have a hidden limit. I still nervously checked my account during the first 24 hours for any extra charges but I was completely safe and was able to search, Google, use my phones GPS, hire Lyft rides and call my mom all for a fraction of the price it was in 2013. My mind was blown!
Now, if you do not have a large data or talk plan then you still might need calling cards, maps and Wifi or if you are travelling somewhere not covered by this feature. I also cannot comment on other service providers and their travel options but I was pleasantly surprised by Rogers on this one. I only wish this was around in 2013! #rogersroamlikehome
This blog was not written to promote Rogers as a service provider, as I’m sure other companies offer similar travel options (or they should), but only to acknowledge how technology has changed in the last decade in one particular way (as it’s changed in many other ways too).
I hope this post helps you in your travels and if you don’t have data options, then I highly recommend City Maps to easily get around and not stand out like an obvious tourist.
Of course, if you are like me and take a hundred photos a day, you still might stand out! #sorrynotsorry
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Comment below if you’ve had similar experiences or any tips you have for getting around in other countries, I’d love to hear about it!
xo Shawn

San Fransisco

My dad always had a painting hanging above our sofa of a darkened bridge at dusk with a sailboat in the foreground and ac its skyline in the background. It’s not of the Golden Gate Bridge but I always imagined it was for some reason and it became a bucket list to see it in real life. Originally San Fransisco was on our trip itinerary but when the trip plans changed I decided I was only going to go to Los Angeles. Something inside me didn’t sit well with my new plan and I debated back and forth for a while before finally deciding to add San Fransisco back in. I couldn’t be that close and NOT go!
I also desperately wanted to see Hearst Castle after my aunt and uncle raved about it and so I hatched a plan to fly into San Fransisco, see a couple key sites and then drive to Hearst Castle and then LA that first night. A lofty goal, I know, but I was sure I could do it. Then I arrived in San Fran and my heart was stolen. Needless to say, I did not make it to Hearst Castle.
 
I began my day on a 6:55am flight from Toronto to San Fransisco, landing at roughly 9:30am. I napped briefly on the plane but was pretty tired when I arrived. I found my way to my rental car (I had a previous reservation) and made a beeline for Lombard Street. Driving in a new city by yourself is always a bit intimidating but navigating the sloping streets of San Fran was a very different experience for me. I made my way down the winding Lombard Street, trying not to hit any of the tourists that were already out and snapping their photos. I quickly found a parking spot at the end and ran back to take my own photo from the bottom of the hill and then proceed to try and get out of my parking spot. Try was the operative word and after a few failed attempts where I kept rolling forward toward the car in front of me, I opted to find someone to help. I saw a landscape nearby and figuring he must be a local, I begged for his help in getting out of my spot. He explained a trick where you put your feet on the gas and brake simultaneously and then slowly remove the brake so that you’re able to move backwards up the hill. IT WORKED! The relief I felt getting out of that spot cannot be explained and I was thankfully on my way again.
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I made my way to the Fisherman’s Wharf next and found a much flatter parking spot this time. I walked around the wharf taking in the sights and sounds of the restaurants and shops lining the streets. The wharf is a hubbub of street musicians, tourists and seagulls and just has an electric sort of atmosphere. I loved it and decided right then and there that I was not going to make it to Hearst Castle after all. I made my way along the water’s edge and snapped a few pictures of Alcatraz, Pier 45 and the historic WWII war vessels docked there. I then stumbled upon Musée Mechanique, which is a fun museum filled with unique and vintage arcade games, all of which are still usable today. I spent quite a bit of time playing some games, snapping photos and checking out all the weird, quirky and sometimes creepy arcade machines.
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It was lunchtime now and I was feeling hungry, so I started looking at my available options. I’m not and never have been a fish or seafood person and being on the wharf, that was the majority of restaurant offerings. This is when I stumbled upon Boudin Sourdough and remembered another famous San Fransisco delicacy! Established in 1849, Bourdin is where sourdough is said to have originated (although some debate is out there). Since it was such a lovely sunny day this day, I opted to not eat at their restaurant indoors but instead purchased a loaf for the road. Their claim to fame is the unique shaped loaves they make fresh daily, such as bears, turtles, bunnies and other fun shapes. I chose a turtle and a souvenir baguette magnet to add to my fridge collection and headed back towards the pier. I found an outdoor local fast food type restaurant and sat in the sun enjoying some fries and a beer while people watching enjoying the view of the water.
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Conveniently, the stop for the historic cable car system was beside where I had parked and so I bought myself a return ticket to ride the route, which I was told was about 20 minutes total. There was barely a line but I had to sit inside, as the outside seating was full, vowing I’d get a standing position on the way back. After a fairly short ride, the cable car stopped at the end stop and I got off, expecting to turn around and hop right back on. Boy was I wrong. The line up at this end was 6 times longer than at the other end and I had to wait nearly 45 minutes before finally getting onto another cable car headed back. I luckily got myself a standing position on this car that was both exhilarating and terrifying. I also managed to get a few photos and videos (thank you random strangers) without dropping my phone which was an amazing feat. I thoroughly enjoyed the cable car and would highly recommend it to anyone visiting San Fran, even with the wait times at the end stop.
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After the cable car, I headed to Trader Joe’s (because wellness blogger) to get a few snacks to go with my loaf and headed off in search of the Full House hill from the opening credits. This hill is actually in a park space called Alamo Square and looks over the famous Painted Ladies, which are a group of Victorian homes that were re-painted and restored in the 1960s and are now historic landmarks. The actual Full House home is not here but about 10 minutes away and currently under extensive renovations. This was another bucket list moment as I grew up watching the show and definitely took too many photos and videos at this location.
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By now it was nearing 3:30pm and it was time to get my butt to the Golden Gate bridge. My first glimpse of the bridge literally made me squeal with excitement and I pulled over to get a few shots. As I drove closer and closer, my insides were jumping and I could hardly sit still. I found a section of parking just before the bridge but parking was a nightmare so I decided to just drive over it. I don’t know why driving over a bridge elated me like it did but I was overjoyed. On the other side, I found parking and took some more photographs before taking a short walk along the bridge itself (and of course taking more photos). I knew I need to get on the road at this point if I wanted any hope of getting to LA before midnight but my GPS was trying to take me away from the bridge and so I found my way over it one more time instead, navigated through San Fran rush hour and then began my trip to LA.
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I had planned to drive on the highway straight to Hearst Castle originally and then drive a bit of the coast once I was on my way down to LA. But since I was no longer needed to go to the castle and realizing it would be getting dark soon, I decided to head to the coast first and then make my way at dusk to the main highway, so I wouldn’t be on the coastal highway in the dark. By now it was closer to 5:30pm and traffic leaving San Fran was awful but once I was driving along the coast and looking out at the spectacular view, I was so content. I ended up driving past a beautiful little town that looked like something out of a “Visit California” guide book and ended up driving back to stop and take it in. I don’t even remember the name of the town but the whole place smelled like wildflowers and the surf was leaving a mist that twinkled in the setting sun. It was breathtaking. I just stood there for a bit taking in the view, the smells and the crashing sound of the waves. I didn’t want to leave, but sadly I had to keep going. I made my way to the beach front restaurant next to me only to realize it was the nicest Taco Bell I’d ever seen! I got myself a Pepsi (if you know me, you know) and got started back on the road. After a couple of wrong highway turns, a few GPS re-routings and a gorgeous sunset, I was finally on the main highway heading towards LA.
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By now, as you can imagine, I am exhausted. Three times I stopped at a rest stop, debated getting a hotel room for the night, cried in my car, got another coffee and headed back on the road. Construction brought a 5 or 6 lane highway down to one, very slow, lane that barely crawled along and made me cry at least one more time. At 4:00am on Saturday morning, after being up for over 24 hours, I finally made it to my hostel at the Freehand Los Angeles and to a whole new adventure!
 
Don’t forget to head over to my website http://www.thesleepypineapple.com for more blog posts including fitness, health and wellbeing!
xo Shawn

Hostels 101

I’ve just recently come back from a trip to California (see my Coachella post here) and since I was travelling alone for most of it, I opted to once again stay in hostels. Obviously, when I went backpacking in Europe I also stayed in hostels, as it is a much cheaper option but also more conducive to travelling alone. I have met some of the best people at hostels and had some of my favourite stories come out of those nights. My trips in the last few years have been with my boyfriend and so we’ve been staying in hotels or AirBNB’s since that is often cheaper than hostels for couples. As such, it’s been about 6 years since I have stayed in a hostel and now approaching my mid-thirties I wondered if I’d feel the same as I did in my 20’s. The verdict? It was just as I remembered it and just as memorable and fun. I also got some great stories out of it and a few new friends! Here are my tips to navigating hostels.

1. Do your research.

Don’t just pick any old hostel off of any old site. There are a few platforms that offer loads of reviews, photographs, ratings and pricing options. My favourite is Hostelworld as I find it the most user-friendly. Nowadays you can also book with the peace of mind knowing you can change or cancel your reservation with ease due to their improved cancellation policies. Some hostels include this in their prices and others charge a small fee for the service but it is a useful addition, especially if you aren’t sure of your dates. They also offer many details in the description of the hostels for getting to and from the airport, parking, lockers, public transportation, wifi and amenities. These sites are also useful for comparing hostels to see which might be the right fit for you. Finally, be aware of check-in and check-out times, especially if you are depending on changing in your room upon arrival. All hostels should store your luggage in a secure place if you’re not able to check-in or if you have time between check-out and your flight. But it can be annoying to change, organize your luggage and re-pack if you are just arriving and want to change before heading out. Being aware just allows you to pack accordingly and anticipate not being able to get into your room right away.

2. Choose your dorm wisely.

Yes, the cost is usually a factor in picking a hostel in the first place, so choosing the cheapest dorm might be the best option for you, but it’s not always. Depending on the hostel rooms can vary from 4 person dorms up to 16 persons or more. Obviously, with more people, it can be much noisier, so if you are a light sleeper this can be an issue. That said, it often depends just on who your roommates are and even 4 person dorms can be noisy if you get people that snore or just are inconsiderate. As a female travelling alone, I often choose female only dorms when given the opportunity because of safety concerns and overall comfort. My best tip for choosing your dorm is to look at the bathroom facilities, private on-suites seem like a good idea but upwards of 4 people can be very difficult for everyone to use when getting ready in the morning or for bed. It’s also more difficult if you have a nervous bladder or issues with IBS, etc. because of the close proximity. I actually prefer floor washrooms, as long as you choose a place that is clean and well maintained. I also prefer beds that have curtains to block light from your eyes when sleeping. Not everyone arrives during daylight hours or goes to bed early and lights can often be more disturbing than noise. If unavailable definitely get yourself a sleep mask!

3. Choose a hostel with a bar or restaurant.

Firstly, this is helpful for travelling alone if you don’t feel like eating out or making something. Often you can take-out something to your room or common area and just relax a bit while eating. Why I always try to choose a place that has a bar though is for the friend factor. It is the absolute easiest thing to simply ask your roommates “Hey, you want to go get a drink?”. Boom, instant ice-breaker! On top of that, if you’re like me and you don’t want to be out by yourself too late, then it also gives you a place to be social but close to your room, so you’re not trying to get home in a strange city all alone.

4. Make sure there are lockers and bring two locks.

Lockers are your best friend. This is where any personal belongings you want to keep safe are locked up. Obviously, passports and bank cards, etc. should not be left out of your possession, keep these things with you in a safe place. But things like, shoes, bags, jackets, jewellery can all go in the locker and be kept safer. Some hostels have large spacious lockers while others can be very tiny and only for essentials. Decide what’s important to you and try to plan accordingly. Some photos can be deceiving so if you need clarification, email the hostel and they should be very helpful at giving you dimensions or size comparisons. Make sure to bring 2 locks with you as your luggage will often not fit in the locker and need to be left out, so one luggage lock and one for the locker. If you forget or don’t have a second, the hostel will usually have some for sale at the reception desk.

5. Be open to the experience.

It’s not just for the broke backpackers. Hostels are the perfect place for solo travellers to meet new people and feel safer when alone in a new place. Be open to meeting people, ask them questions, make friends and go with the flow. Obviously, it is your trip and you should do all the things you want to do but some of my best times have been going to a tourist site with my new friends. Not everyone will be a lifelong friend and some people can be weird for sure (trust your gut on that), but it can be very worth it to talk to someone new and make connections. We are all different but have so many similarities and it’s in meeting new people from different cultures, that you really start to experience the joys of travelling.

 

If you enjoy my writing style and want to follow my wellness and lifestyle blog, check out http://www.thesleepypineapple.com

xo Shawn

 

Why You Should Travel Alone​

“Travel far enough to meet yourself.” -David Mitchell
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As some of you may know, I just returned from an incredible trip to California! I have some more blog posts coming soon telling you about my favourite parts and sites worth seeing, but first I wanted to delve a little deeper and explain why I think it is so important to travel alone. Now, I don’t mean that you have to travel every single time alone, but travelling alone at some point in your life is necessary.
This was not the first time I have travelled alone out of the country, back in 2013 I backpacked through Europe for 4 months all by myself. At that time, I was using it as an escape and as a way to deal with my grief over losing my father. It taught me more than I can put into words. Travelling and seeing those spectacular places, sites and sceneries brought back a sense of joy into my life again. But travelling alone brought me back my sense of self, my independence, my inner strength and the ability to appreciate my life again. That trip put me back together emotionally, helping me to grow and heal. I was 28 during that trip. Returning home, I felt like I could do anything, I felt invincible.
This time around, at 34, something shifted and a new piece of myself appeared. It’s hard to explain but basically, I stopped caring what other people thought of me. I used to care a lot what others thought of me or if they liked me, etc. and was picked on and teased a lot during my formative years which only increased those feelings. As I have grown older, those feelings have diminished over the years and I’m now well aware that I can’t please everyone, nor do I want to anymore. However, like most, I’ve still had moments of embarrassment, self-doubt, people pleasing and unsureness. On this trip, those feelings all but disappeared. If I did have a moment of hesitation I was quick to shake it off and move on. Some of us are built to worry and question ourselves and others have an innate ability to be completely self-assured and confident. For me, travelling alone is where I’ve been able to grow and become a more confident version of myself and at 34, I can honestly say I’ve never been more self-assured. Travelling alone is where I see how capable I truly am. I can rent a car and drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I can speak up and let the front desk know when my roommate is freaking me out. I can go to a restaurant and have a meal by myself. I can avoid being hit (or spit on) by a crazed homeless man. I can trip and fall on a curb, take care of myself and not have it ruin my day. I can make new friends. I met two amazing women on this trip, both in their 30’s travelling alone also. As women, there is more concern for us travelling by ourselves and worry about our safety. It made me so happy to see these women just out there, living their lives, seeing the world and not letting fear stop them! Returning home from this trip, I am actively trying to keep that confidence, to not let thoughts of self-doubt creep back in. Like my cousin said (she joined me for Coachella!)- “nothing will ever be the same again”. Travelling changes you.
Seeing the world is important and I wish everyone could travel, widen their perspectives and expand their minds. My hope from this post is that even if you can’t backpack for 4 months or travel out of the country, you could at least go to a meal, a movie, a weekend getaway alone. Become okay with being alone sometimes and learn who you really are.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.”- Freya Stark
April 12- 23, 2019

Nice, France | Part Deux

It occurred to me recently that I have not written here in such a long time! I have a new website venture (www.thesleepypineapple.com) where I am focusing more on food and fitness. Travel is my first love though and this blog was such a big part of my life for so long! There are many more places and sites I have yet to tell you about too! It was sad for me for awhile there, my life in Toronto became a bit stale when I first returned from my whirlwind trip. Talking about my adventures made me sad and I became a bit depressed again. The good news is I persevered! I am now teaching Pilates and working at the studio full time! I began school for Holistic Nutrition and I am doing very well over all. I still give myself too much to do and I’m trying to juggle multiple jobs and new endeavours, but I am happy. I continue to dream big and I am working towards those dreams everyday!

Last fall I got to return to the place where it all began, Nice, France. I was lucky enough to bring my boyfriend this time and show him around. He thought it was picturesque and stunning. If they didn’t speak French, I could probably get him to move there with me! I showed him the Promenade des Anglais, Place Massena, the Chateau de Nice and the old town Vieille Ville.IMG_1752IMG_0190IMG_1635We stayed in a six floor walk up, we found on Air Bnb, that had the sweetest little balcony that looked out on the city. I would 100% stay there again, even with all the stairs! I was blocks from the beach and the lively tourist section of the city, which wasn’t as busy due to us arriving in early September.

We did lose our luggage on the way there, as we flew via Frankfurt from Dublin and there was a bomb scare that very morning. Thanks to a mix up we also lost two days waiting for the luggage to arrive and had to go to the airport to pick it up in the end, 3 days after we arrived. While I do hate we couldn’t even go swimming because we were waiting for luggage and I missed out on seeing some of my old haunts from when I was there in 2013, I still loved every second of being there! I’m also incredibly thankful for my travellers insurance!

Luggage aside, we did get to the beach multiple days and I swam my little heart out! We also took a day trip to Monaco and Eze! If you look at past posts, Eze is magical and it was just as beautiful as I remembered. Lovely little shops and cafes, stunning views and adorable surroundings. We sat on a patio over looking the sea and had some drinks. We wandered through the small pathways and up to the church, where I lit a candle for my father (as I do in all churches). We even hiked down to Eze sur la Mer, which was MUCH longer than I remembered and definitely much hotter as well!

In Monaco, I changed my mind at the last minute and we went to the old town first and then to Monte Carlo. That was a mistake! Because, we by the time we made it to Monte Carlo, it was passed 1pm and my boyfriend couldn’t get in with his flip flops. I think I was more disappointed for him, then he was about not getting to go in. We did sit in front at a cafe and had some Monaco brand beer, which was quite good though. Afterward we made our way into the smaller casino next door and lost some money, all in good fun of course! There was a lot of construction though and I will admit, it did ruin the ambiance of the area quite a bit. It didn’t have that same luxurious quality and the designer sports cars were lacking in numbers. It was still a fun excursion and a great day!

We did buy some groceries and had a full kitchen but surprisingly we ate out quite a bit more than we expected. There is no shortage of foods to try and while we tried to eat cheaply at breakfast and lunch, dinner out and drinks seemed to be standard practice. It is just such a lively and fun vibe at night, the city comes to life! It’s hard to explain but we loved wandering the streets and stopping to have a drink at an outdoor table, people watching and talking. It was my favourite part of the trip.

I hope to return again soon, it seems to be every three years right now, just by coincidence! I do hope to make it back sooner the time. Of course, I want to see many new places as well, but Nice will always have my heart!

September 2016

 

 

Arizona

Arizona is a magical place. You can feel the energy from the earth, mountains and wind. It is breathtakingly beautiful and unlike any place I have ever been, and I’ve been around. For my 30th birthday, my friend and I went to Las Vegas and on that trip we also visited the Grand Canyon. That was spectacular! This time around I visited Gold Canyon (near Phoenix), specifically we stayed at the base of Superstition Mountain. If that name doesn’t tell you about the beliefs of the land in Arizona, I don’t know what will. To be honest, we saw so many things in my short trip it is now blending into one lovely memory. We visited the Mesa Market, Tortilla Flats, Salt River, Saguaro Lake, Queen Creek Olive Mill, and Goldfield Ghost Town. I’ve probably forgotten a place but we drove through many little towns as well, stopping for lunch and taking in the winding mountain roads.

The main thing I noticed was that the attractions were generally free; they want you to see what they have and if you want to buy souvenirs, food, etc., then that is where they are making money. I thought it refreshing, to go to a landmark and not even pay for parking! That is how it should be and the places were busy.

The scenery was beyond stunning, yet the only words I could seem to find- “it’s so pretty”. Pretty does not do it justice and everywhere I looked was a picturesque landscape. Thankfully my uncle understood this more than most and stopped at many lookouts for me to snap away!

I stayed with my great-aunt and uncle in their RV. It was cozy and comfortable (I’d never stayed in one before) and their hospitality is next to none! They even got me vegetarian food and ate some themselves for dinner! I was very touched by the gesture and by the effort they put into giving me a great vacation.

Every evening starting at about 3-4pm we had Happy Hour, sometimes at the pool (where we also went every afternoon) and sometimes back at the RV in time for sunset. At the pool the drinks included popcorn and if you know my love of popcorn, then you know this was like heaven for me. A pool, sun, popcorn and wine= my idea of happiness!

The sunsets were just as stunning as the views and apparently I got lucky with some gorgeous ones. That is the problem, no clouds means no sunsets; we had little clouds a couple of nights that gave us picture worthy views.

Overall, I highly recommend Arizona to visit. My third time to the state will be to visit Sedona as I’m told it is spectacular and has even more energy to it. Given what I’ve seen already, I can’t wait!

February 13-18, 2016

Montreux: Deux

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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.

June 20-22, 2013

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VQp058VXpME

London Eye

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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!

August 27, 2013

Bastille Day!

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Fête Nationale as it is known in France is today July 14 and commemorates the Storming of the Bastille in 1789 and celebrates French unity among the people. Last year I was in Nice, France during the festivities and snapped this picture of Le Negresco hotel! Bon fête!