2019: A Year in Review

2019: A Year in Review

2019 was a transition year for me, which meant that travel for personal interest had to take more of a backseat. I started a new job at the end of February and prioritized visiting friends and family over my travel bucket list. That being said, I still managed to squeeze in some restful escapes and exciting adventures – including my highly anticipated return to South America (the continent that launched my blog) after nearly a decade pursuing other regions. It feels fitting to bookend the 2010s the way it started so as always, I’ve captured the highlights of the past year in the list below.

1. San Diego, California (February)

It doesn’t take much to encourage me to book a quick weekend getaway to Southern California but when I found out that my boyfriend had never been, we used a cold snap as the perfect excuse to fly south for the winter. My friend Jennie hosted as per usual and we spent our days introducing Markus to Coronado, La Jolla, Liberty Station, Pacific Beach… oh and all the craft beer and tacos!

2. Kauai (April)

My friend Mindy and I may have fallen into a slight travel rut as of late, but who really cares when that rut is Hawaii! This time we maximized a 4-day long weekend and a couple of red-eye flights to explore my 4th Hawaiian island, Kauai! The amount of time we had was perfect since this island is much smaller than some of the others. We rented a car and drove all over the island – soaking up the beaches and hiking the gorgeous Waimea Canyon. I’m sure we’ll be back again soon.

3. Toronto, Ontario (May)

For someone who has travelled to 38 countries on 6 continents, it came as quite a surprise to many that I’d never been to my home country’s largest city. But, when my brother moved to nearby Waterloo in 2017 it felt like time to finally make the journey East. We spent 3 days exploring cool neighbourhoods like Queen West and Kensington Market, took in a showing of the fantastic and very Canadian musical Come From Away as well as an obligatory trip to the top of the CN Tower. I had very low expectations and was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable Toronto was to visit and if our paths cross again, I won’t be too disappointed.

4. Point Roberts, Washington (June)

For this year’s annual girls trip, we decided to stay close to home as we had a stowaway in the form of Crystal’s 4 month old baby, Jack. But, we still wanted to go somewhere new and seeing as none of us had ever visited the odd little American exclave of Point Roberts. Only accessible by land from Canada, Point Roberts is a sleepy little town, with one grocery store and a handful of restaurants. It was the perfect place for us to get away from the city and enjoy the quiet woods and beaches.

5. Kelowna, British Columbia (June)

I typically try to get to Kelowna at least once during the summer. It’s somewhere I’ve been going since I was a child and there’s something about boating on the lake that brings back so much nostalgia. Now as an adult, I love exploring the plethora of excellent wineries in the area and this trip was no different. I’ve previously visited the wineries in West Kelowna, Summerland, and Naramata and now added Grey Monk, Arrowleaf, and Ex Nihilo in Lake Country to the list. The weekend actually ended up being a bit of a family reunion with my cousins from Portland making the trip up with their new baby in tow. I always feel so lucky that my cousins are some of my most favourite people!

6. Pender Island, British Columbia (July)

To me, there is no place more tranquil and restorative than the Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. When I found out that my boyfriend spent summers on Pender Island as a child, I knew that we had to plan a getaway for him to show me his favourite spots. We stayed in the most adorable little cabin complete with an outdoor bathtub overlooking the ocean and spent lots of time reading books and sipping wine on the patio. I stayed on brand with a visit to the local winery, Sea Star and checked out lots of different coves and beaches. It was everything I love about summer and I’m already planning a return trip in 2020.

7. Winnipeg, Manitoba (September)

I’m on a bit of a hot streak with trips to Winnipeg having recently visited in both 2017 and 2018. This time, I snuck in a long weekend with my best cousin, Teri-Lynn to capstone the summer. We visited her new ice cream store, Fête,  which was still under construction at the time, but I did get to taste test all her latest creations. We also tried to burn off some of the calories by hiking in the Pinawa Dam Provincial Park, which was a beautiful little oasis that I had no idea existed. I also made it back to the Forks, which is touristy but always a fun stop for snacks and shopping. Winnipeg and I have a bit of a love/hate relationship and I’m sure I’ll be back again soon.

8. Raleigh, North Carolina (October)

My second-ever trip to North Carolina had me re-visiting Greensboro for my travel bestie Megan’s wedding and a little side trip to check out nearby Raleigh. While the city itself left me a little underwhelmed, we did enjoy the craft beer scene, southern comfort food, and the unseasonably warm weather. The 25°C temps in mid-October saw us renting a canoe to float around William B Umstead State Park in near isolation. While it may not have been thrilling, it was relaxing, and sometimes that’s enough.

9. Buenos Aires, Argentina (December)

I didn’t expect to be writing about Argentina in 2019 but here I am. Due to some dramatic events in South America, my travel bestie, Megan and I, ended up cancelling our intended trip to Chile/Bolivia a mere 3 weeks before departure and re-scheduled to nearby Argentina. While originally disappointed and honestly quite stressed about the change of plans, we both agreed that we may have ended up with an even better trip in the end. We spent 3 days soaking up the affordable luxury and warm summer sun in Buenos Aires exploring markets, eating steak, drinking Malbec, strolling through cemeteries, and wandering through parks. It was a great teaser for what was still to come.

10. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil (December)

Our second stop on our whirlwind tour of Argentina was a major bucket list highlight. I’ve always loved waterfalls and Iguazu Falls is arguable the most impressive in the world. We viewed the falls from every possible vantage point, including both the Argentinian and Brazilian side (which yes, did involve some new passport stamps) and by helicopter. Iguazu was awe-inspiring at every turn and certainly warranted two days of exploring to do it justice. We coupled that with some rooftop pool hangs at our hotel and a last-minute visit to the Parques de Aves to see all the tropical birds including my very first toucan! Add this to your Must See list.

11. Mendoza, Argentina (December)

If there is one thing that you should know about me by now, it is that I love wine. And there is nothing that I love more than a wine tour in a new country. It also, just so happens that Malbec is my favourite type of wine, and Argentina is the king of Malbec… so you can imagine how much I loved exploring Argentina’s Uco Valley wine region during a full day tour with Trout and Wine. I’ve done a lot of tours in my day, both self-guided and professional, and I can without a doubt say that this was the best wine tour that I’ve ever been on. The three stops we made were all educational, unique, picture perfect, and very VERY generous with the pours. We even enjoyed a 6 course lunch with paired wines at our third stop (all-inclusive)! And Mendoza is an adorable little city with great night life as well. I can’t think of a better way to end the decade… more bliss in the 20s please!

2019: By the Numbers

Countries Visited: 3 (2 new ones) –  USA / Argentina / Brazil

States Visited: 4 – California / Hawaii / Washington / North Carolina

Provinces Visited: 3 – British Columbia / Ontario / Manitoba

Plane Rides Taken: 14 one way flights (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has).

Airports Visited: 13 (YVR, BLI, SAN, LIH, YYZ, YWG, SEA, RDU, MEX, SCL, EZE, IGR, MDZ)

Kilometres Flown in 2018: 55,933

Beds Slept In: 14. Of those, 5 were Airbnb rentals, 4 were hotels, 4 were crashing with family or friends, and one was my own bed!

Hello Seattle, Hello 2016!

Hello Seattle, Hello 2016!

Happy New Year! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be writing these words in 2016. It just sounds good to say, doesn’t it? 2015 was a wild year but it ended on a beautiful high that has carried me blissfully into yet another January.

For the third year in a row, I have continued my favourite travel tradition of celebrating the start of the year in a new city. In 2014, I set the bar high with a fun-filled night on the streets of New Orleans. In 2015, I partied Catalan style at the Plaza de España in Barcelona. And this year, I welcomed 2016 in Seattle, a city that is near and dear to my heart.

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My partner in crime for this edition of NYE is a regular on the blog – my good friend Mindy. Neither of us had ever gone to a fancy New Years party so we decided to go all out this year. We got tickets to the largest bash in the city at the Experience Music Project (EMP) museum and a room at an adorable boutique hotel downtown.

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The event was fantastic! Not only did we get to tour the exhibits of the museum (which included set pieces from LOTR, Star Wars, Princess Bride, and beyond) but it also included amazing cover bands, a live comedy theatre, and prime viewing of the Space Needle’s fireworks show. It was so much fun that I almost want to break my rule and celebrate there again next year… almost.

 

But the good times didn’t stop after the clock struck midnight.

Outside of the lower mainland where I was born and raised, Seattle is the city that I’ve visited the most frequently. But, I rarely get to be a tourist as I’m usually in town for something specific: cheering on my Seahawks, attending a concert, shopping, or heading to the airport. So, this time I made a conscious effort to soak up a different side of Seattle.

 

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EMP Museum

Underground City Tour

Several friends had recently raved about the Seattle Underground City Tour and I have to echo their praise. The comical beginnings of the “Emerald City” lend itself perfectly for a joke-filled tour of the subterranean passages that once made up the main streets of pioneer square. We learned a lot more than we ever wanted to know about early sewage systems and how The Great Seattle Fire of 1889 was maybe the best thing to ever happen to the city. I won’t spoil it all here, but I definitely recommend you take the tour yourself.

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Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum

I’ve never thought too much about how glass was made. Well, except for that scene in Sweet Home Alabama with the lightning. But, honestly, I had no idea what to expect when we decided to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass museum located in the Seattle Center. I was completely blown away by the truly incredible works of art created by glass blowing (see what I did there?). Inspired by the Venetians and created by Dave Chihuly, the exhibits were whimsical, vibrant, stunning, and awe-inspiring. We even got to watch a live demo from a couple of professional glass blowers and I was seriously impressed by their skill and patience. Usually I am intimidated by this sort of thing, but glass blowing is so cool that it makes me want to pick up a new hobby. Good thing I don’t make New Year’s resolutions…

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Boeing Factory Tour – The Future of Flight

I love everything to do with aviation. I love airports. I love airplanes. I love flying (even when I hate it, I love it). I’ve not-so-secretly always wanted to be a flight attendant. So when I found out that you could actually tour the factory where these dream machines come to life – I was sold. And while it was definitely cool to see the largest building in the world by volume, the tour left me a bit underwhelmed.

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The factory is actually located just 30 minutes north of Seattle in Everett, Washington, which made it a logical pit stop on our journey home. Perhaps it had something to do with visiting the site on a holiday weekend when less action was happening (a whopping 35,000 work at this location) or maybe we just got a below-average tour guide but the whole thing was kind of whomp whomp. I was hoping to hear some stories or get more up close and personal with the planes when really all I heard was a lot of statistics which flew in one ear and out the other. The one thing I do remember is that you could fit all of Disneyland and a 12 acre parking lot inside the factory. So there’s that.

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All in all, I had an amazing three days in Seattle. After dozens of visits, I still have more to explore, which is a tried and true sign of a world-class city in my opinion. 2016 is off to a fantastic start!

How did you celebrate the new year? Have you ever found a city that continues to excite after multiple visits?

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Seattle

 

Football Fever: The Seahawks Experience

Football Fever: The Seahawks Experience

If you’ve never been to a National Football League game, you are missing a truly incredible experience.

My first NFL game was back in January 2011 watching the Oakland Raiders at the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a memorable event even though I didn’t know the rules and had never watched a full football game in my life. It must have been the tailgating at 9am that did it.

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Tailgating at the Chiefs game in Jan 2011

Flash forward 3 years and I’m throwing a super bowl party and cheering as my “home” team the Seattle Seahawks win the Super Bowl. I may be a bit late to the party but I think it’s safe to say that I’m hooked.

This past weekend I got to attend my second ever Seahawks game at Century Link Field. Similar to Vancouver in many ways, Seattle feels like a second home to me (must be all the airport visits). And since Vancouver doesn’t have an NFL team, my family has adopted the Seahawks.

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My dad is a season ticket holder and somehow I weasel my way into a game every season. Last year I had the unfortunate luck to be at the only home game they lost all season… so you can imagine my distress when this year’s game was against the very same team, the Arizona Cardinals, who also happen to have the best record in the league. Uh oh…

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Fearing that another loss would banish me from the stadium as bad luck, I was really crossing my fingers for a win. We arrived at the stadium in good time to enjoy some delicious (but not so nutritious) munchies (a must at any pro-sporting event) and the pre-game atmosphere. I have come to love all the rituals, like the raising of the 12th man flag, watching the hawk fly out before the team, and yelling FIRST DOWN in unison with the crowd. I even tolerate the SeaGals despite my feelings about cheerleaders. It all goes with the territory.

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It wasn’t the most beautiful win but it was a defensive masterpiece with the final score 19-3 for Seattle. To say this was a huge win is a bit of an understatement. The Seahawks have been having a rough year defending their championship and they need every win they can get to clinch a playoff spot. Needless to say, I was relieved to know that I wasn’t bad luck after all.

But, win or lose, I always have fun at Century Link Field. The fans are the loudest in the NFL and the people watching doesn’t get much better. With the steady flow of alcohol, and the mixture of testosterone and competition in the air, people tend to get a little crazy. If I wasn’t pulling my hair out with nerves, yelling at the refs, or laughing at the fans, then I was cheering my heart out.

As I said, it’s quite the experience.

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Skagit Valley Tulip Festival

The Pacific Northwest is definitely one of the most beautiful places on earth. Fortunately, I get to live here. Unfortunately, I often take it for granted. But every once in a while I make an effort to play tourist in my own backyard.

This past weekend I took three friends with me to Lake Whatcom, WA for a girls weekend. We rented the bottom floor of a gorgeous lakeside mansion with a view that took our breath away. We spent our time mostly relaxing (like in our private hot tub) with a bit of sightseeing to mix it up. Our vacation was a mere hour’s drive across the Canadian border but it felt like we really got away. We were also conveniently located near the historic town of Mt. Vernon where every April they host the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, which is surely not to be missed. Our touring took us to RoozenGarde, which boasts 1000+ acres of tulip, daffodil, and iris fields. The manicured gardens even came complete with an authentic Dutch windmill, which definitely brought back memories of my time in Holland. If the weather cooperates like it did for us and you get there early in the day to avoid the crowds, then you are sure to bring home a camera full of photographs that are 100% grandmother approved.

We had such a fabulous time that we’ve already talked about making it an annual tradition.

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