2014: A Year in Review

2014: A Year in Review

W h a t.  A.  Y e a r !  I can’t believe that it’s actually time to say goodbye to 2014 and what has been my best travel year since 2006. I somehow managed to squeeze 18 trips into the past 12 months and I did it all while holding down a full-time office job. That’s right people… you CAN travel the world without quitting your day job. To celebrate the end of an absolutely incredible year, here’s a review of my 2014 travel adventures.

1. New Orleans (January)

I began 2014 with a bang and a kiss (teehee) while watching fireworks over the Mississippi River in New Orleans! This is definitely one for the record books and redeemed a holiday that I had pretty much given up on. Now it’s my new mission to celebrate NYE in a new city every year! photo-3 2. Victoria (February)

One of many weekend trips to Vancouver Island to visit my best friend (guest blogger Katie Smith) – it was cold. So cold that the fountains in front of parliament froze over. You don’t see that everyday.

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A less cold weekend back in Victoria to visit same friend… yeah, I’m awesome that way ;)

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4. Lake Whatcom (April)

Only the single best girls weekend ever! Okay, that might have been the wine talking but seriously, we had a great time checking out the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and relaxing by a very lovely lake.  IMG_0652 5. Winnipeg (May)

At long last, I made my first trip back to Winnipeg in nearly four years. I used to go all the time (to visit family) but with domestic flight prices soaring, it’s a rare occurrence these days. Lucky for me I have connections and when my WestJetter friend hooked me up with 40% off – I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to catch my dear cousin (the actress!) on closing night of her musical. IMG_0932 6. Las Vegas (May)

VEGAS BABY!! Okay, so maybe my long weekend in Sin City wasn’t exactly what movies are made about… but it was fun! I hadn’t been since I was a teenager so the adult version was a whole new experience. IMG_0829 7. Vietnam (June)

My first trip to Asia and I chose Vietnam (by way of China) and decided to go all by myself too. Well, I didn’t end up being alone for long as I made a lot of great friends on the road. Two weeks went by all too fast as I sweat (holy hot batman!) my way up the coast enjoying beautiful beaches, amazing food, and fascinating cities. IMG_1144 8. Lac Le Jeune (July)

My first (real) camping trip was a roaring success! My expert camper friends planned a perfect two days in the Central Interior where we basically just lazed around the lake and ate. Summer in BC = Bliss! Lac Le Jeune 9. Kelowna (August)

Last year’s annual mother/daughter(s) weekend took us to Whistler Village where my sister-in-law and I took the plunge by bungee jumping for our first times. This year we headed to wine country for a perfect weekend of boating, drinking, touring… basically living the good life! IMG_1616 10. Whistler (August)

When my friend Katie casually mentioned that she’d never been to Whistler before, I hung up on her and called a hotel immediately. Whistler is an annual summer retreat for me and I’ve been at least 15 times. So, I was thrilled to show off this little resort town and all of the off-season activities it has to offer. IMG_1801 11. Tofino (August)

This trip! The trip that I never thought was actually going to happen. First we were going to Alaska. Then we were going to Hawaii. Then we ditched the idea completely. Then we were back to Alaska. But, by the end of it all, we settled on Tofino/Ucluelet for our first family vacation since 2007.

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12. Sunshine Coast (September)

When my friend Kendra got a job in the seaside town of Gibsons, I knew that it was finally  time to take a trip to the beautiful Sunshine Coast. We spent a perfect final weekend of summer driving up the coast and feasting our eyes on the impressive Skookumchuck Narrows!

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

13. Prince George (September)

Not the most glamourous destination on the list but it was travel and a new city. This work trip took me the furthest north that I’ve ever been in Canada and I got to squeeze in a quick visit with my friend Mel. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised to find impressive old growth forests nearby and a lot more activity than I would have initially guessed in such a remote community. This really is Beautiful British Columbia from top to bottom.IMG_2156 14. Boston (November)

One of my favourite benefits of traveling is the great people you meet along the way. Megan and I became fast friends while visiting Vietnam earlier this year and we were already googling flight prices between Vancouver and Boston before we even went our separate ways. I knew right away that I wanted to see New England in the autumn and I lucked out with an absolutely glorious weekend of blue skies and radiant fall colours. The Northeast is definitely a region I am eager to explore in more depth.IMG_2484 15. Seattle (November)

A frequent stomping ground for concerts, shopping trips, cruise departures, and cheap flights over the years, Seattle has become a second home in many ways. And now, with my family’s recent obsession with the Seattle Seahawks, we have more excuses to go and more love than ever for our sister city on the West Coast.  IMG_2506 16. Victoria again (November)

Back to Vancouver Island again… this time for some pre-Christmas festivities in sub-zero temperatures. Note to self… start visiting in summer from now on. Brr…

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17. Portland (December)

When I found out that my cousin Jordan and his wife Emily were moving from the mid-West to the weirdest coolest city in America… I couldn’t start scheming fast enough. One weekend was barely enough time to get a taste of what the city has to offer so expect many more adventures in Oregon in the months and years to come!

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18. Lisbon (December)

When the office shuts down over the holidays, why not celebrate in… P O R T U G A L ! This quick Euro trip reunites me (once again!!) with my Boston Bestie, Megan. We are spending the final four days of 2014 in beautiful Lisbon… and the travels don’t stop there! Follow my adventures into 2015 and see how (and where!) I ring in the new year!

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2014 By the Numbers:

Countries Visited: 3 (2 new ones): USA / VietnamPortugal

States Visited: 5 (2 new ones): Louisiana / Washington / Nevada / Massachusetts / Oregon

Plane Rides Taken: 12 (I count a flight as a flight regardless of how many segments or layovers it has). Of those flights, four were heavily discounted by family/friend discounts, two were paid for by work, two were almost covered entirely by points, and the remaining four inspire me to keep looking for great deals.

Other Modes of Transportation: 10 ferries, 3 overnight trains, 3 buses (long-haul), 1 motorcycle, and more vehicles than I care to count.

Airports Visited: 16 (YVR, MSY, SEA, YWG, YXS, LAX, BOS, AMS, LIS, BCN, BLI, LAS, CAN, SGN, HAN, MCI)

Beds Slept In: 26. Of those, 10 were hotels, 7 were crashing with family or friends, 3 were sleeper trains,  2 were house rentals, one was an Airbnb apartment rental, one was a bed & breakfast, one was a tent, and one was my own bed!

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Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest

Photo Essay: Summer in the Pacific Northwest

It’s the last week of summer, and instead of getting sad about the shorter days and the inevitable rain, I am choosing to celebrate my favourite season!

If it wasn’t already obvious from my posts over the past couple of months… I love summer and I especially love summer in the Pacific Northwest! This region, which is loosely a combination of BC, Washington, and Oregon, enjoys warm, long, dry summers that stretch into the late days of September. The temperature typically sits in the mid 20s Celsius near the water and peaks around 30 degrees inland (sometimes a bit hotter). For the most part, the temperature is so deliciously perfect that you can get a tan without dissolving into a puddle of sweat and with the sun setting late into the evening you can really make the most of all the great activities that only happen at this time of year.

I may be known to use a bit of hyperbole from time to time (okay a lot of the time), but I can honestly, without a doubt proclaim that we have the best summers of any region in the world.

Don’t believe me? Well maybe these photos will help change your mind…

Active Pass, Southern Gulf Islands

Active Pass, Southern Gulf Islands

Coal Harbour, Vancouver (this is where I work!)

Coal Harbour, Vancouver (this is where I work!)

Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Chesterman Beach, Tofino

Kettle Valley, Summerland

Kettle Valley, Summerland (see… it even has summer in the name!)

Howe Sound, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Howe Sound, Stawamus Chief Provincial Park

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack

Bridal Falls, Chilliwack

Gastown, Vancouver

Gastown, Vancouver

Mission Hill Winery, Lake Okanagan, West Kelowna

Mission Hill Winery, Lake Okanagan, West Kelowna

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Sunset over English Bay, Vancouver

Lost Lake, Whistler

Lost Lake, Whistler

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Sechelt, Sunshine Coast

Vancouver Skyline

Vancouver Skyline

Farewell summer! Until next year…

Weekend Getaway: Soaking up the Best of Kelowna

Driving over four hours to Kelowna for merely two nights may seem like a long way to travel for such a short trip. What could you possibly accomplish in such a short amount of time?

Well, let me tell you, I made my time count.

Here is a blog style itinerary of my weekend getaway to Kelowna, BC.

Friday afternoon:

I departed Vancouver around 1:45pm to attempt to beat the rush hour traffic. On the way I picked up my sister in law, Faith, in Langley before arriving at my parent’s house in Abbotsford. We loaded into my mom’s new Subaru and were ready to go!

Friday evening:

We arrived in West Kelowna around 6:30pm – just in time for dinner. We were all feeling adventurous and found a hole in the wall, mom-and-pop, Lebanese restaurant online that had solid reviews. We were not disappointed. It was clearly the kind of place that you had to know about because the owner seemed confused about why we were even there. Have you been here before? How did you find us? Someone needs to teach Gaby about the power of the Internet. Anyways, we thoroughly enjoyed our platter of deliciously spiced rice, chicken skewers, humus and pita even if we had to wait a while to get our food. After all, Gaby’s Grill is only staffed by two people. We gave it a 5 star review and will definitely be back.

So good that I dug in right away...

So good that I dug in right away…

Saturday morning:

We woke up bright and early Saturday morning at our lovely host’s house (my Aunt & Uncle) ready to start our epic day of relaxation.

A solid brunch is the best way to kick off any weekend and so we headed to the Bohemian Café in downtown Kelowna. We were really original and all three of us ordered the same thing – Blueberry Oatmeal Pancakes with real maple syrup! Our meal success continues!

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Now, no trip to the Okanagan Valley would be complete without a little wine tour and so our second stop of the day was Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna. Check out the full post here.

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Saturday afternoon:

After such a lovely morning enjoying stunning views of Lake Okanagan, we were ready to get a much closer appreciation of the lake life. Fortunately for us, my Uncle has a boat and managed to free up some time to drive us to my other Aunt & Uncle’s waterfront property. We jumped aboard the boat for a 45 minute boat ride where we could soak up the sun while using the breeze to beat the heat – perfection!

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We spent the afternoon visiting with family and sipping ciders lakeside. Not too shabby.

Saturday evening:

After a quiet dinner back in downtown Kelowna, we set off to explore the waterfront boardwalk at my most favourite time of day – twilight – or what I affectionately coined “magic hour.” We also wandered through the grounds of the Delta Grand Hotel and enjoyed the colours of the setting sun before heading back to our place for another glass of wine.

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Sunday morning:

Once again we were up early, but honestly it still felt like sleeping in compared to my work schedule. We were leaving Kelowna behind now and made our way to Peachland for our sweet fix at Bliss Bakery. Sitting lakeside (is there even another side?) while eating pastries and drinking coffee is definitely my idea of a blissful Sunday morning. I didn’t even question the sign that stated We Bake Naked because maybe that’s just what people do when they are this happy.

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We soon left Peachland behind for yet another foreign land – Summerland! Now that name sure sounds heavenly. In reality, Summerland is such a sleepy little town that I would probably go stir crazy in one day but we had very good reason to be there – The Kettle Valley Steam Train. It was such a lovely way to enjoy the valley and canyon views and definitely felt like we had travelled back in time. Check out the full post here.

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After an ice cream cone lunch in town we were back on the road – destination: home! All in all, it was a pretty great weekend. We packed in a lot of activity but all of it was relaxing enough that I didn’t feel tired. The toughest part is deciding where to go next year…

 

Wine Tasting in the Okanagan Valley

This past weekend I spent my second annual “Girl’s Weekend” in the Okanagan Valley with my mom and sister-in-law. Basically, this weekend is an excuse for me to have a mini vacation (with my mom picking up the tab) and to show my new American sis all the glorious spots BC has to offer. And of course to bond and spend quality time together too.

Last year we took her to one of our favourite summer stomping grounds – Whistler Village. Although the weather didn’t quite cooperate, we still managed to kick off this tradition with a bang and checked bungee jumping off the bucket list!

Just jumped off a bridge... no big deal

Just jumped off a bridge… no big deal

This year we had to make sure our trip was equally entertaining and decided to return to the Okanagan where my family used to frequent back when I was a kid. However, this time we had more grown up pursuits in mind… cue the wine!

No trip to the Okanagan Valley would be complete without making time for a little wine tour. With over 150 wineries in the region it’s no wonder that USA today named it as the world’s second best wine region to visit. Described as “Drop. Dead. Gorgeous” by expert Kerry Woolard, this wine country has made a name for itself with award winning white wines like the Mission Hill Chardonnay and incredible lake views from nearly every angle.

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We decided to visit the famous Mission Hill Winery in West Kelowna for a one hour heritage tour. It was a delightful experience, perfectly crafted to please by our host Elizabeth. We watched a short documentary, toured the bordeaux cellars, and of course sampled some wine (three to be exact). But, it’s really the grounds that make this such a lovely place to visit. The winery is built in a Roman classic style similar to what you would see in Tuscany and boasts a 140 ft bell tower, a 1000 seat outdoor amphitheatre, and truly beautiful lake views. I could have stayed here all day!

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Next up: Soaking up the lake life in Kelowna!