Monday, April 20, 2015

Vancouver B.C. 2015

Canada is a beautiful country despite only seeing a small fraction of what it truly is.
Vancouver though, was still a great sight to see and just to be.

Planning a trip is easy. Actually going and doing this, well that's another story.
It's hard to know exactly how they're going to go before you leave, but all in all it was a pretty good trip.

Crossing the border the first afternoon was exciting for me since I'd never ventured that far North before. The border patrol lady who asked us questions wasn't rude and we passed on with ease.
The tricky part was after Surrey and getting through the horrible traffic that ensued after that (for whatever reason, it was playoffs weekend for the Canucks and we did not know this).
After sitting in traffic for an extra hour or so, we trekked on!
Driving through Vancouver and it's many parts was nice on first arrival. Obviously we were just glad to be there (late at this point) and we were ready to be out of the car for a bit.

Arriving at our apartment we had to walk down a couple blocks to a KeyCafe to pick up our keys, which was easy enough.
Booking our apartment through Airbnb was an easy task and everything seemed ok, till we realized we didn't understand the apartment ways in which to enter.
A nice French Canadian man came by and helped us though and we made it to our nice 12th floor apartment.

The city was gorgeous up there and we were satisfied with what we had accomplished so far during this trip. Just getting there was a feat in itself at this point.
That night we had our Lord Huron concert to go to at the Vogue Theatre, which we drove down to downtown and found parking with no problems.
By the time we got back to the apartment we rounded up some snacks and we were done, tired.

The next morning, after stopping off at a Tim Hortons for some smoothies and donuts (we had to) we walked to the Vancouver Public Library where we rode up all seven stories of escalators, took some pictures and read some interesting Earth books (mine was about African animals).

From here we drove back through the city and ventured our way out the the Vancouver Aquarium where we had a great time! Walking around and seeing all of the sea creatures, watching the Belugas swimming and giving us a show and all of the other mammals and fish they had there was awesome. A great time was had by all, you could tell by the children crying and the parents laughing after being soaked by a Beluga splash. Too funny.

The Jellyfish were probably one of my favorite to see at the aquarium. With the various species they had in different exhibits, it was cool to see the differences and also the similarities between all of them.

What a great experience to see the colors and the movement.
At one point I thought to myself, it makes you want to touch them (obviously, do not do this).
Just the way they look in the water looks so serene and calm. Their bodies of mostly water (90% actually) looking ethereal and soft.

The otters were another sight to see.
Their exhibit was outside and free for had great views into the enclosure to watch them swim around, float and knock into each other.

This little guy, as he passed his buddy on the way through, pushed him on the head and just kept on going.

They are interesting mammals with their dense, waterproof fur. What a cool thing to see!

The belugas were probably our favorite overall, mostly for the sheer surprise factor they brought to the table at the 2pm show.

It's funny how they had warned us not to sit so close, but in the end that didn't matter at all. Yes, even we got wet and splashed enough during the opening.

The belugas are funny and oh so smart creatures. Their trainers did a great job keeping up with them and showing us what they could do.
Waves, high fives, the use of water, and their sounds. What a sight!

Our afternoon at the aquarium was well spent and as we got in our car to head out, we were glad with the day.
That was until we went the wrong, crossed over the bridge to the North and found ourselves back tracking into more traffic (thankfully for not too long).
We did however get to drive through Stanley Park which is gorgeous, if only we had had more time to be there.
After getting back we decided food was in order and grabbed a bite at the local pub just walking distance from our apartment.
We ordered some beer and cider and a great order of poutine with our main bangers and mash.
The day could not get any better right?

As we winded down, took a nap and just rested, we also slowly got ready for our fancy dinner date up at the Cloud 9 restaurant downtown.
We parked right underneath the building in their parking garage which was perfect (no ones wants to walk in heels for too long) and found our way up to the 42 floor.
The view is 360 degrees and throughout the dinner we were able to see all of Vancouver, it is a revolving restaurant!
The dinner was amazing, salmon and vegetables with mashed potatoes. Yum!
Great date. Great food. Great views.

The next morning, our last day in the city, we decided we had a try out a recommendation one of our friends from work had given us.
Cafe Medina near Granville was highly spoken about and when we got there, we could understand that, since our wait was an hour long to eat brunch.
We walked around town to wait it out, visiting into some shops, getting candy and looking at clothes until we had to go back.
When it was our time to eat (we were pretty hungry at this point in time) we were so glad that we had waited. The food...was amazing! I'm not gonna lie, I would eat here every day if I could, so delicious.
Their little waffles allow could have kept us coming back.
And apparently the flavor of sauce to get (which is a must!) is the raspberry caramel. Just do it, you will thank me.

The main dish for me was called Les Boulettes, which was Moroccan lamb meatballs in a tomato and red pepper stew with poached eggs, raita, and focaccia bread on the side (Forgive me for the blurry picture but oh my gosh, had to capture it somehow).

This is some of the best food I've had on a Sunday afternoon and the wait was worth every single minute. It was also a great way to end our trip to Vancouver.
Driving home we could only imagine going back and what else we would do next time. Maybe take things a little bit slower, but our experience so far has been a great one.

Definitely recommended to anyone looking for a trip over the border.

Safe travels!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Planning a Weekend Away

Hey everyone!

For my first post I thought I would start with one of my trips that's coming up soon and go from there to past adventures and continuing with the big one coming up.

I planned a trip to Vancouver B.C. a couple months ago, because I was excited for a break from my work life. It seemed fitting seeing as it's pretty similar to the Seattle area, just for one, a different country and two, I've never been there!

It's funny because I've been across the Atlantic and I've also been to Mexico, but not across the border that's the closest to us. So therefore, obviously I'm ready to go and say I've been to Canada finally.

I thought I would go ahead and share my steps to planning this short weekend trip, because while we'll only be there for a couple days, we're trying to pack as much in that we like and want to do as possible.

Steps for planning a weekend trip:

First step was of course choosing the desired destination for where we wanted to go. Driving a few hours to somewhere you've never been can be exciting and sometimes all you need to relax and get away from where you always seem to be.
We chose Vancouver because of the proximity to us, the variety of options we can do there, and for me, the fact that I'd never been.
In the future a weekend trip for us might be to Portland or even Northern California for a beach stay, just other options to keep in mind.

The second step, although step 2 and 3 could probably be swapped around if you wanted, is deciding what you want to do while you're there.
Initially we were excited to go to the Vancouver Aquarium because they have Beluga whales and other exhibits we'd like to look at, but digging deeper and doing more exploring online, I found some other things we might enjoy, these are just a couple that we might end up going to:

Vancouver Public Library
VanDusen Botanical Garden
Capilano Suspension Bridge
Shopping downtown

Other people also suggested we go to Grouse Mountain and around Stanley Park, as well as, to see the Sea Wall.
These are just some of the options we had and after doing some even further investigation, I found a band we both like was playing up there, so we will be going to a concert our first night (to see Lord Huron at the Vogue Theater).
Apart from that, there are so many restaurants and shops in the area, for that we'll probably wing it and see what we find, although we did make reservations at Cloud 9 for a fancy night out (this is the revolving restaurant up there, which seems like it could make for a great view and pictures).

Third step would be to plan out where you're going to stay. Now like I said, I probably did these two steps simultaneously and therefore it doesn't really matter which you do first, just as long as you do it in good time.
For this step, we had agreed upon looking through Airbnb to see what could be available for us at a good price. Initially, being the cheap person I am, I wanted to find something well below our budget so that we could spend more while we're up there and on the trip itself, but we found a great apartment to rent for the weekend up there at a reasonable price (comparable to a hotel) but we could have access to a kitchen if we want it was just a homier feel with amazing views of the city.
Personally I would recommend Airbnb (and this is my first time using it) just because of the amount of options you have at the location you're looking to visit and price ranges vary depending upon the place as well.
I also chose to get in contact with the renter of the apartment early and make sure we had a clear spot for our weekend time away. 2 months in advance might seem too soon, but you'd be surprised how quickly things book up the closer you get and then your options are more limited.
The exchange and messaging was great and it was an easy process to use to book the whole place.
I reached back out to her a week ago and made sure of the plans and what we would do when we got there (how to get keys, where to park, etc.)
She also had a lot of great recommendations for restaurants and things to do as well. Asking locals is a great way to get the inside scoop on where to go.

The final step of course, is packing and in general making sure that you're ready to go.
Now we don't leave till Friday but I'm already anxious and already planning what to pack in advance.
Mostly it will be casual attire for walking around, but that fancy night out begs for something a little more, well, fancy.

Here will be my packing list for the weekend:

2-3 t-shirts all various is style
1 long sleeve shirt since it might be cool
1-2 pairs of jeans/any kinds of pants
Fancy dress for dinner out
A nice jacket plus a regular casual jacket
Fancy heels
Deodorant, shampoo/conditioner (not a lot), make-up and other toiletries (face wipes, face cream, comb, hair brush, etc)

*Also since there is a pool in the building, maybe a swim suit just in case.

Other miscellaneous things would be my camera, phone and chargers for both, passport (important!), and snacks/water for the ride up.

We are driving up to Vancouver even though we do have a train that goes up there as well, it'll be nice to be able to blast music and sing during the short road trip.

All in all, it should make for a good trip and I'll take as many pictures and notes as I can to review things when I get back.

Thanks for reading!