Category Archives: Travel Stories

Hiking through Abel Tasman

We landed at Totaranui and piled off the boat. A German guy valiantly took our giant backpacks to shore for us, and then decided to go for a sprint down the beach and throw his hands triumphantly in the air. It was strange, but provided us with something to laugh at. Here we were, Totaranui, and we were here to start our walk. It, as luck would have it, began with an incredulous uphill. Oh. My. God. If the whole walk is going to be like this, my feet will probably fall off by the end. We finally began going downhill, and found ourselves at Goats bay. We were hiking on the beach! It was so cool! However, I didn’t see any goats. Not one.


After a blur of more uphills, downhills, and beautiful scenery, we came to the tidal crossing. We recalled what Skipper Brett said about the tide moving almost 5m in six hours, and like the brilliant hikers we were, decided to cross at low tide. The expanse of sand was not unlike a graveyard, with millions of broken clam and mussel shells scattered as far as the eye could see. We dodged crabs as they scurried from one hole to the next.


On, on, and on and on we hiked. My obvious lack of physical fitness began to show, and I trailed behind Ebba and Erin as they seemingly flew up the hills. I would stop, catch my breath, say, “stop being such a wimp, Beth,” and hike to catch up. It was exhausting. The path took us to an epic waterfall, and we were all stoked we chose this path. Waterfalls are bomb.


We finally made it to Bark’s Bay! We met Ranger Mark, who checked our booking number. He was cheerful and pleasant, and when he left, we decided Erin would be a perfect Ranger. Ranger Erin, we would call her! We cooked an entire bag of pasta, used an entire jar of sauce, and probably sliced half a kg of cheese. After we polished off the pasta, Erin cooked some cheesy bread which we added cheese to. Then we had some chocolate and climbed into the tent, satiated AF. As we stepped in our tent, it started to rain! Perfect timing. We lay in bed, all zipped up in our cozy sleeping bags, listening to the rain and chatting about the day. I asked Erin the time. 7:21pm. Lights out.


I woke up 12 hours later!! Oh man. I slipped out of the tent, sure to not wake the girls, and sat by the beach Ito amp myself up for the day. With a few MASSIVE blisters forming on my little piggies, I dreaded what the day had to offer. I prayed to nature and asked for a lovely day of relatively flat hiking, with pretty scenery and no rain- too much to ask? I didn’t think so. As we were cooking WAY too much oatmeal, the enthusiastic German guy from the boat (and the triumphant fist pump on the beach) walked into the campsite. We chatted for a bit, and he said he would see us on the trail. As he sprinted out of earshot, we all laughed. There is no way he would see us on the trail— we had no intention of sprinting.


Another blur of ups and downs, a little spatter of rain, and beautiful, breathtaking views. We walked by only really good smelling people. One man was holding an umbrella over the girl who walked in front of him— so chivalrous— and he smelled amazing. We couldn’t decide whether it was the passing hikers who smelled so good, or if it was us who smelled so damn bad. We agreed it must be them.

The end of the trail came into view and I almost wept at the sight of it. My feet sure did— then I realized that was just a blister that had popped and filled my sock with pus.


Searching for the Red Beer Fridge on Gili Air

February 2014

All week, I’ve seen a Canadian hat bobbing amongst the hatless heads every so often. It’s like a beacon of patriotism. I finally had to say something to the guy wearing it. I walked up to him, “I just had to say hello. You have this Canadian hat, and I love it.” We became fast friends. His name is James. His friend is Morgan, from America, who actually looks like Fabio. They were fun and friendly— just my type of people. I asked James if he has seen the red beer fridge commercial by Molson Canadian. He shook his head no. I used his phone to show him the most amazing Olympics Ad I’ve seen in a long while. (Watch it here). We watched the video at the bar, and watched when the guys point to an island on the map— Gili Air! The neighbouring island to the one we are on. Oh my gosh! We should go find this guy! James was SO excited. Fabio was up for an adventure too, and they both agreed to meet me at 11am tomorrow morning at the pier. I am so excited!!

Zarina and I went down to the pier at 11am. I saw the beacon. James’ red hat bobbing around the harbour. I jumped up and ran over. We found a boat to take us to Gili Air! We showed the captain the Molson Ad and he smiled. “This your friend?” We all nodded. “This is our Canadian friend.” And just like that, we were on a boat, sailing the waves. We all agreed that we would treat ourselves to an awesome fish lunch or something. Absolutely.

Zarina, the happy adventurer.

We arrived in Gili Air and jumped off the boat. We immediately began asking people if they knew Morgan from Canada. We went to Ocean 5 to eat some Nasi Goreng and take a quick dip in their pool. We showed a few fellow Canadians the commercial and they wished us luck on our quest. After lunch, we chose a direction and began to walk it. Fabio brought some portable speakers and some really funky music. He played it as we walked down the path. We all danced. It was so fun. I love dancing down the street of a remote tropical island. Locals were sitting along the path, in berogaks, and other various huts, and would smile, laugh, point, and some would even get up and join us! It was brilliant. We were quite the sight. We decided to put the dance party on hold and ask again about the red fridge. We went into Safari’s bar.

img_9479We asked the bartenders about Morgan from Canada, and they told us to walk back the way we came and to the other side of the harbour. Ok! I took a quick swim in the ocean, because I am in paradise, and the ocean was literally calling my name with each wave that gently crashed against the coral, “betttthhhh, betttthhhh….” Fabio and James bought to go cocktails, and we were back on our dancing path.

Morgan, AKA Fabio, right at home at the bar.

Some kids ran up to us to see where the music was coming from. We stopped walking, but kept dancing and they just thought it was the funniest thing. Then Fabio pulled out balloons from his vest! The man carries balloons with him to give to children! He blew one up, and then let it go so it would spin and fly around the little boy. They all shrieked with laughter. We showed them how to play keep up, basically you don’t let the balloon touch the ground- you keep it up- and were back on our merry way.


We walked passed the harbour, and passed Ocean 5. We continued to miander along the path, smiling and waving at the locals. I suggested we go into another bar to ask again. Paradisio’s or something. James asked a table of local guys all sitting around a table if they knew Morgan from Canada. One Indonesian man stands up and turns around to face us. “I am Dean,” he said, “and Morgan is a good friend of mine.” No way! Dean is kind of the main Gili Air guy. He controls all of the investments that are made on the island and has a lot of control with the development. He was also in the Molson Ad… They invited us to sit with them while they finished lunch. We each ordered a Bintang, and took a seat. Then they pushed their food towards us. Steamed rice, grilled fish, spicy vegetables, oh boy. Everything we hoped for today was coming to fruition! The boys passed around a big ol’, Gili air sized joint after the meal, and offered to us. What hospitality!

Dean, the main man.

Dean told us that Morgan actually isn’t here, but he is actually flying back today from Canada. We just missed him. But you know what is here? The big red fridge is here! Dean walked us through the back alleys of Gili Air, past bungalows and new buildings. I said, “Gili Air is growing fast, and Dean said, “not if I can help it.” He doesn’t want Air to turn into another Trawangan and is doing everything to stop it- petitions, invoking certain laws and bylaws to ensure no roads are put in, no horns are to be installed on horse carts, etc. He also leads a group in which every Sunday, the children are taken along the beach and help clean up the garbage.

We turned a corner and there was Morgan’s office. Dean unlocked, and slid the door open. There it was! The big, red fridge! James and I looked at each other with the silliest grins on your faces. Fabio and Zarina decided to sit outside and let the Canadians have a minute of patriotism. James and I took some photos and rejoiced in the happiness we were feeling as a result of the perfect day we were having. We wrote Morgan a note to thank him and his friends for inspiring our beautiful day. We took some more photos and left.


We walked back to the harbour with Dean, and found our boat man. Just like that. It was the most perfect day. Everything just worked. The timing, the manifestations of our dreams, the big red fridge. I stood on the bow of the boat the whole way back, wind in my hair, surfing the waves. I felt like I was on top of the world. Entirely flying. Today will always remind me that when you are open to beautiful and wonderful things happening, you meet people who will spontaneously join you on epic adventures across water and land.

Later, I met a man named Gamons on the balcony of the bar. He was a lovely little Indonesian man who asked me, “do you enjoy?” “Do I enjoy what?” I asked. He just said, “do you enjoy?” I nodded. I said my life is a sequence of beautiful moments that has connected into a never ending stream of them. He smiled, high-fived me, said, “enjoy your beautiful moments”, and walked away.

My Day in the Mekong Delta

January, 2014

We were up super early and on the bus to head to Mekong Delta. I don’t think any of us expected the day we were about to have. The boat trip across the water was nice and peaceful. Nghiep, our guide, told us a little bit about the Delta. There are islands called Unicorn, Dragon, Phoenix, and Turtle islands. It was a lovely little trip and we arrived on Unicorn Island in about twenty minutes.

This lady was making rice paper

First stop: We learned how rice paper is made! It’s a mix of rice, coconut milk, and water, spread over a hot plate like a crepe and then put in the sun to dry. They had samples for us, some flavoured, some crispy, some still fresh. They were all delicious. We each were able to hold a python too! I love the feeling of snakes!

This is me with a snake

Next, we learned how coconut candies are made. After chopping the coconut open with an incredibly dangerous tool that could slice off a hand, shelling the coconut with a sharp spike that could impale your inner thigh, and feeding the coconut slowly through a grinder that could eat your fingers, the coconut is mixed with sugar and malt. It’s stirred for about half an hour and then set in the sun to dry. They flavour the candies with various things like peanuts, chocolate, and coffee. I had to buy a few ginger ones- they are just too good.

The terrifying tools used to make coconut candies

We took a row boat down one of the canals to our next stop. The boat was small, and only 4 at a time could fit in. The water was unmoving, the giant palm fronds have us shade, and the only sounds were the water lapping against the shore, a rooster crowing in the distance, and our rower’s oar dipping into the water. It was lovely.

The beautiful Mekong Delta

Second stop: lunch! After walking through an inadequately secured bee farm, we arrived at a giant table. We all sat around and lunch was served. They brought out a huge cooked fish, and at the table, a Vietnamese woman made us individual fresh spring rolls with rice noodles, pineapple, and cucumber. They were very good. We had really nice battered banana, sour chicken, fried rice, jackfruit, and delicious tea with honey from the bee farm! After lunch we had a chance to all Latin hammocks and digest our food. I forgot how much I love hammocks. I love hammocks.

We took tuk tuks to our third stop. These were unlike any tuk tuk I’ve ever seen. They were converted motorbikes! Front half of a bike attached to a bed of a very small pickup truck! We wore helmets because we drove through a coconut forest, and they don’t want tourists getting bonked on the head. I think it was also because they like to laugh at the tourists with their goofy helmets on.

Our goofy AF helmets

Third stop: we were given fresh tropical fruit for dessert! Dragon fruit, jackfruit, some amazing fruit of which the name I can’t remember, and the most darling bananas I have ever seen. These bananas made me feel like a giant. They were no longer than my index finger, but short and fat, and the brightest colour of yellow on the inside. Delicious.

Last stop: the pier. We boated in silence back across the water. As we passed more docked ships, I saw a man napping on a hammock ON A BOAT! The water was literally rocking him to sleep. I have to talk to my friends and see if they’ll go in with me to buy a boat and a few hammocks….

I also saw:
Two old men playing Vietnamese chess,
A topless man reading the paper and smoking,
A grandma playing with a new baby,
An overturned motorbike,
A boy sneak a kiss from the girl on the back of his bike,
A game of football being played by young boys in a parking lot,
Two old women using stationary bikes on a playground.

Dan and Amy looking as lovely as ever in their conical hats

Sitting on an Ancient Patio in Ghent

We arrived in Ghent and instead of trying to figure our the tram system, we decided to walk to the hostel. It wasn’t too far. We wandered through the streets of this delightful little city, awe-inspired by the absurd number of castles we passed. The whole place is so picturesque.


We began our wandering. And wandering and wandering. We were quite tired, so stopped by the canal and relaxed for a little bit. We took a lovely slew of pictures and selfies. We awed again at the surroundings. Our panoramic view starting from the left included some beautiful canal buildings, next to an old canal bridge, next to more old, stone buildings, a clock tower, a cathedral, an abbey, another SUPER old canal bridge, and another cathedral. Wow.


You have all heard that saying, “when in Ghent, do as the Ghentians do,” right? So, we had waffles for dinner. They were delicious. Piled high, oh, so high with strawberries, drizzled with melted Nutella, and topped with just the perfect amount of whipped cream. Holy moly, how delicious was that?! I love waffles for dinner.


You know what I love almost as much as waffles for dinner? Candy for dessert. We bought a bag of typical Ghent candies called Cuberdons. They are little purple sugar cones, filled with goopy purple sugar liquid. Wow. We had one each and I felt a cavity grow in. The only thing I love more than waffles for dinner and candy for dessert, is beer for second dessert. We sat at a patio near a super old stone building, that has probably been there for 400 years, and asked our waitress which local beer she would recommend. She recommended to me, a dark beer, of which the name I can’t remember, but whose percentage was 10%. Rebecka had a blonde of normal people alcohol percentage. I warned the waitress that after one I was going to be drunk. She laughed. I wasn’t kidding.


We were a little drunk when we left the ancient patio. We wandered by a canal and our breath was taken! The wind had ceased and the water was almost perfectly still. We took about a million photos of the buildings and the water. We both had to pee, so we ducked into a little bar. When we emerged from the washroom, we realized it was actually a really cool place! We decided to stay here for a beer! The snacks on the board were all in Flemish, a language with which I am not very strong. We ordered the snacks that said ten of them came. I like ten of things. All of a sudden, two men began playing jazzy, bluesy music! One guy on a saxophone, and the other on a guitar. Wow! It was so wonderful. Rebecka and I were their biggest fans. No really, we were the only ones clapping the whole time. Soon, it was time to go back to the hostel. Home again, home again.


Patio Sitting in Lisbon

Steph and I decided go for an adventure! We walked through the heat down to the centre. Steph confessed she had a wish for a big, cold glass of fresh lemonade. I hoped we could make it happen, but we weren’t optimistic. We took the shortcut through the metro, wandered through the streets until we found the monastery,and took the secret pathway beside it. It spit us out half way up a lookout point. We paid the €1 to walk up the stairs all the way to the top. The view was spectacular. I love climbing to the tops of things and looking out. It’s the best. We did a photo shoot and stayed up there for as long as could stand. We were both sweating alcohol out of our pores, and with nowhere for shade, we were overheating.

Me, on top of the world.

We walked back to Alfama to meet up with our friends. As we walked and talked, a kiosk caught my eye. LEMONADE! As if. AS IF there is lemonade! It was like a dream come true. We bought two cups and were the happiest girls in Alfama.

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset
Steph and I as the happiest girls in Alfama

The giant group of us (seven) wandered around the streets, searching for a dinner place. The problem with looking for a dinner place with seven, really easygoing people is that we will never find a place, because everyone’s, “easy.” As we weaved in and out of the streets, we spotted a BBQ at the end of a skinny lane. Perfect! Pateo 13 (Patio 13). We walked up and Yuri asked the man if we could sit at the free table outside. We sat down and the crazy yelling began. The waiter was talking to Yuri in Portuguese, and kept yelling sporadically at the man at the BBQ. I kept telling Yuri to order wine. He wasn’t responding to me. I talked over the yelling Portuguese, and said to Henrique, “can you order two bottles of red wine?” He didn’t react to me. Am I invisible? Rebecka and Kevin were just laughing! Everyone was yelling! It was CRAZY! I finally grabbed the waiter’s attention and said, “can we have two bottles of red wine, please?” The waiter laughed and yelled something at Yuri, who laughed along with Henrique. Holy moly! I just wanted wine. All of a sudden, we were ordering! The waiter left and I asked Yuri if he had ordered wine. He said, “don’t you worry. I would never leave you wine-less!” I smiled. Sure enough, the waiter came back with two bottles of red wine. Phew!

The gang

We had some great conversation. I don’t remember it all, but I remember laughing pretty much the entire time. Henrique said something about “cockfish” and we all laughed. He meant codfish of course, and this we all knew, but couldn’t help to laugh. The food was great, the wine went down too quickly, one bottle, two bottles, three bottles, then we left. We mostly left because the entire patio had closed down and we were being shooed by people hanging out of windows, clearly trying to sleep on this Sunday evening. Yuri knew of a little bar we could go to for more drinks. It was called Tasca, and it was here we sat outside around a table, and ordered another bottle of wine. Next thing we knew, a man came outside of the bar holding a bucket with a rope in it, attached to a stick. He placed the bucket down, held the stick in place, and began playing it like a bass. WHAT?! A man with a guitar joined him and they began playing music. I can’t believe he is playing a bucket with a rope and a stick. I don’t know when it happened, but the guitarist asked the crowd if anyone plays the melodica. Rebecka offered Kevin, the professional pianist, and his skills. The guitarist handed Kevin the melodica and we all waited with bated breath. Sure enough, Kevin rocked it. I think everyone, the musicians, the audience, and even Kevin were surprised at how good he was. “I’m salivating everywhere”, he said.

The bar closed down and we all parted ways. I fell asleep on a cloud that night in Lisbon.

A man playing a guitar and a man playing a bucket & rope!


Devouring Cupcakes in New York City

January, 2015

We woke up when the alarm went off and were ready in an instant. We turned our tickets in at the hostel kitchen and collected our breakfast- a bagel and an apple. We toasted our bagels, nestled our apples in safe little spots in our purses, and sat in the kitchen, all eyes on us. There we were, Allison looking like a million bucks in her aubergine coat, black high heel booties, with bling peeking out from under her dazzling scarf, and me, with my bright red lipstick, polka dot dress, and beautiful timepiece on my dainty AF wrist, sitting in the hostel kitchen surrounded by a gaggle of your typical hostel kitchen goer. We were well out of place and we loved it.


We began our walk towards grand central station, and found Starbucks on Park Ave, a few blocks from Grand Central Station. We ordered our drinks and were off. Our Starbucks cups really added to our NY glam. We ducked into Grand Central Station and my breath was taken away. How can anyone walk into this building and not look up?! It’s SO beautiful. We continued to make our way towards the “Rock”. As we walked, we imagined and talked about life would be like as a Manhattan local. Then we heard a huge thud and a guy yell. When we turned around, we saw a bike pizza delivery guy on the ground and an open taxi door. I guess being a Manhattan local isn’t all Sex and the City. We turned the corner and there was Rockefeller Centre! The tree, the skating rink, the giant building towering over us. Incredible. The tree made me feel a little weepy. The Zamboni was resurfacing the ice before the next million people went for a skate. We wandered around and took a few pictures. How beautiful.

Our selfie with Rockefeller Centre


We wondered what to do next, but then saw a man wearing a Magnolia Bakery hat. Allison said, “hey! That man is wearing a Magnolia Bakery hat!” Then we realized he was standing right outside Magnolia Bakery! Without question, we turned to the shop, opened the door, and were inside, drooling. We stood, dumbfounded at the organized chaos that was the Bakery, unsure of where to go. Again, without question, we joined the cupcake line. A man behind the counter told everyone to form an orderly line instead of crowding. We did as we were told. I was happy to abide by these line rules because I ended up with a VIP view of the cupcakes! We salivated with anticipation.

The delectable cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery

I saw the man drop a cupcake upside down on the display platter. He picked it up, but sighed when he saw the icing was all smushed. He came over to the counter again and said, “who wants a cupcake?” I put my hand up, “ME!” I said with enthusiasm! I honestly thought he meant in general. I thought he was the cupcake enthusiast man, getting everyone pumped up for the cupcakes! I thought he was just managing the line up again, telling all those who said they did want a cupcake to move into an orderly line. But that was not the question. He meant “who wants a cupcake for free because I can’t sell it because I dropped it upside down on the display platter and now it is smushed?” He handed me the smushed cupcake. For free! We ordered our red velvet and our ‘dirty blonde’ cupcakes, and two hot chocolates, because when in Rome. When we went back to retrieve our hot chocolates, the same cupcake enthusiast man came over and began chatting with us. He was thrilled to hear we were from Canada. We told him we would love to ice cupcakes and bake cakes all day. He told us to leave our resumes.
We sat on the edge of a fountain and we ate those cupcakes. Damn they were good. I love red velvet cake because it is often paired with cream cheese icing, which I love. It was only after we finished demolishing the cupcakes we realized we were sitting in front of a highly photographed fountain. We are now featured in the family photo albums of the multiple tourists who visited New York in January, 2015.

Allison, looking like an advert for Magnolia Bae-kery

Being Devastatingly Cool in Madrid

We met up with a few of Miguel’s really cool friends at a devastatingly cool place. I ordered a Tinto de Verano and looked around. Everyone working there was unbelievably cool. I felt like the least cool person in the room. I for sure was. Because my cool is their lame. I can’t even fathom their cool. I can’t even get my brain there, to that level of cool. I was making up stories of their lives and telling Vanessa, our Mexican friend, what I thought. I pointed at a man wearing skinny jeans and an oversized grey T-shirt, his hair was half up and his cool tattoos were visible. He walked around with a cloth hanging out of his back pocket, and an iPad in his hand. He probably paints giant canvasses in his garage studio space. He works mainly with spray paints, but he dabbles in found objects, like broken pieces of chain link fence, and shattered light bulbs he finds in dumpsters. He has a bandana he wears over his face when he paints and he never listens to the same song twice while he is creating. Vanessa just stared at me. I want to go up to him and say, “I’d like you to paint me,” and see what he says. Maybe his next artistic challenge is to try to capture this level of uncool in a painting.

Marta walking through Retiro Park.

After we finished lunch, we walked over to Retiro park. We were going to rent row boats and go for a little cruise! Great idea!! Until I saw the water and the very little shade covering the water. Images of me, sweltering and melting in the heat, in a row boat in the middle of the water flashed through my mind. Not ideal. We decided against boats. I did see a very attractive man sitting by the water, sketching the big statue nearby. I thought about saying how great I thought his sketch was, and maybe asking him if he would like to sketch me next? I didn’t ask. Miguel told me I should always ask. Always! He said, “if you do nothing, it’s already the worst case scenario!” Good point!

The very attractive man sketching not me.

We passed a man playing the Game of Thrones theme song on his accordion, we each bought an ice cream, and then we found a shady area and lay down for a bit. Jasper napped, Miguel grinder’d, I unsuccessfully attempted to eat my ice cream faster than it melted, and ended up just licking the drips up my hand, forearm, and chin, like a lady.

Miguel and I on the roof!

Soon, it was time to move on. We were invited to a rooftop terrace— I could get used to hanging out with these folks, they are always going to cool places. I half expected Snoop Dogg to be somewhere, filming a music video. There was an infinity pool that nobody was swimming in, probably because swimming is not at all what you do at these sorts of places. But I really wanted to swim. I imagined going over to the edge, past all the stunning women and muscular men posing “candidly” for photos in the sunset. I would just taking my dress off to reveal my swimmers, and then dive in. People would either love it or hate it. I imagined how funny it would be. I asked the waiter if I could swim. He told me the pool was closed.

The view from the roof.

Dancing on Pub Street in Siem Reap

January, 2014

Off to Pub Street. I asked my new hostel friend, Cory where it was and how far we had to walk to get there. He pointed ahead and said, “it’s just up there!” I looked, and sure enough, there was a huge, flashing, neon sign that said PUB STREET, with huge, flashing, neon arrows pointing down the road. “Oh,” I said, “you mean just there where the giant neon sign and flashing arrows is?”

2014-01-26 21.27.30

I guess pub street is known for the street parties. We have heard a few different times about the dancing, the drinking, the mingling, and the general partying that does down on the street. I saw no such thing. No general partying. The street was empty! We walked down the middle of the road and found ourselves between two bars— “Angkor What?” and… another one. Standing between the two bars, my friend Emma and I found ourselves in a sweet spot of music. You know when you drive across a border and you can kind of jump from one place to the next, or straddle over two states or provinces? It was like that. But with music. One step to the left, and it was one song, one to the right, and it was a different song, with no hint of the other. I imagined what it would be like to have the ability to see sound waves. Just huge waves clashing in the middle of the street and bouncing back from whence they came, creating a sound wave wall, and two sound wave tornados. Anyway, Emma and I started dancing. I imagine we looked like rockstars as we danced. There may be a meme of us on the internet soon. First, a picture of Beyoncé that says, “how I imagine I look when I start street parties in Siem Reap” next, a picture of the two of us, unshowered, unkempt, and uninhibited dancing alone in the middle of a street- “how I actually look when I start street parties in Siem Reap.”

2014-01-26 21.27.46

It wasn’t our dancing that gathered the crowd, or our devilish good looks. I’m 100% sure it was our persistence. A few songs played and we didn’t stop. A full circle of people gathered around us, mostly Chinese, smiling, clapping, and all of them filming. Woohoo YouTube sensations. Finally, a Korean man stepped into the circle. A high waisted khaki pant, tucked in polo shirt wearing, fanny pack toting, ‘if I tuck my pants into my white sweat socks it will really bring my outfit together’ Korean man. He danced and danced. It was phenomenal. After he joined, the party began. People began to copy whatever dance moves he was doing. It was like a makeshift flash mob. Epic!

After a night out back home, it’s common practice to buy a donair, McDonalds, pizza, maybe even poutine. In Cambodia, however, the western places don’t stay open. In my slightly drunken state, I bought a bag of fried and salted beetles for the equivalent of about $0.50. They weren’t actually half bad.

2014-01-29 00.17.02

The Top of the Arc du Triomphe in Paris

June  2013

With a grumble in my tummy, I walked out of my hotel and past a few different cafes. I walked into one called Hippopotamus and sat at a lovely table on their patio. In my endearing broken French, I ordered a glass of red wine and the salmon. Next thing I know, the waitress brought over a 1/2 litre carafe of red wine. Oh boy. My French really isn’t that good. I guess I ordered a carafe?


About half way through my main course, I looked at the sky and marvelled at the changing colours. I had the thought, I should go up to the top of the Arc Du Triomphe and watch the sunset! Oh my gosh! I should go up to the top of the Arc Du Triomphe!!!!!! I quickly paid, finished the carafe of wine, and was out of the restaurant in a flash. I channeled my inner Carrie Bradshaw and whistled at the nearest cab. “Arc du Triomphe,” I said! He stepped on it! He asked which do I like better, Canada or Paris, and I said I liked both for different reasons. Secretly, I answered, “I like the Paris cab drivers more. I have never had a sexier cab driver in my entire life.” He put on the radio and Imagine by John Lennon played. I smiled and looked at him in the rear view mirror. He smiled too. How do you ask a cab driver out on a date in French?! It was a beautiful moment.


We were at the Arc du Triomphe in a flash. He stopped on a side street on the outside of the roundabout. He told me that nobody is allowed to stop in the middle. Fair enough, this roundabout is like an extreme game of Frogger. One in which nobody wins. I paid him and thanked him profusely. I walked towards the steps he told me were the entrance to the tunnel, but they turned out to only go down to the metro. I looked over at my cab driver and he motioned for me to get back into the car. I told him those steps didn’t lead to the entrance, and asked how I get there?! I hopped in the cab and he cut across traffic. He pulled to the side of the Arc du Triomphe and rushed me out. I really felt like I was in a movie. If only there was a beautiful man who gave me some sort of romantic ultimatum to meet him at the top of the Arc du Triomphe at sunset, or he will never love me again.


I paid my entry and began my trek up the 284 stairs. The slow, unfit, sober tourists in my way, were pushed aside as I bounded past. I think the adrenaline took over because I somehow made it to the top and onto the terrace in 7 minutes. After a carafe of wine to myself, I pretty much become an olympic athlete. I caught the end of the sunset as it made its way past the tall buildings of the city centre and disappeared behind the horizon. The view was breathtaking. It brought me close to tears. The Eiffel tower began twinkling as the clock struck 10, and I stood and watched with all the wonder of a child. I walked around the entire top, and took about 100 couples’ photos for them. I walked down the steps as the terrace closed and head to the nearest metro station. What a perfectly magical way to say goodbye to Paris. I fell in love here, not with a boy, but with a city.


A Bicycle Tour in Vancouver

July, 2016

Vancouver currently has about 265 kilometres of bike path, and works continually toward building the infrastructure to encourage even more cycling. The way Vancouverites have adopted and accepted cycling culture has definitely turned a few heads around the world. With that much dedicated cycling space, you can see a lot of Vancouver from these paths. Even the most tenured Vancouverites can’t say they have seen it all. So, what better way to learn about and see more of a city you love, than with people who love this city? Cycle City Tours believes that one of the best ways to see Vancouver is by bike, and there is no better bike ride than a bike ride shared with friends!

I decided to do one of their tours! I have lived in and cycled a fair amount around Vancouver, and would say I know this city pretty well, but I am a firm believer that everyone should be a tourist in their own city once in a while. I met the group, a family from Belgium, a family from England, and Kate, our tour guide. We started from the Cycle City shop on Hornby Street and cycled through the West End to Stanley Park. We stopped along the way to learn about Vancouverism, a type of urban design and a style of urbanism Vancouver does so well that other cities around the world have adopted it,  and Vancouver’s plans to be the “Greenest City” by 2020. In Stanley Park, we visited Totem Park, and the “Girl in a Wetsuit”, Vancouver’s tribute to the statue. She also mentioned that “in a truly Canadian example of vandalism,” someone swam out and placed a Canadian soccer jersey on the statue last year during the FIFA Women’s World Cup.


We left the seawall and turned into the Park. All of a sudden, we were in the jungle! We saw trees that were 600 years old, and still growing. I think I often take for granted the beauty of this city. Seeing trees like this, just ten minutes from downtown, reminds me just how totally rad Vancouver is. After another stint on our bikes, we hopped on the Aquabus and went to Granville Island. It was here I treated myself to a classic Siegel’s Rosemary Rocksalt bagel with Vancouver lox and cream cheese. If you’re going to act like a tourist, you may as well eat like one!


The rest of the tour was more cycling and fewer stops. It felt like we saw the entire City! Kate had so many interesting stories and tidbits about the development of Vancouver, and facts about all the various communities. It was clear too, from the way she told these stories, that she loves this city, and enjoys sharing that love with new folks. The families that were on the tour with me were clearly falling in love with this place, just like so many of us have.

Cycle City Tours offers three different types of tours: a 3-hour Stanley Park and Seawall tour, a 5-hour Grand Tour (which is what we did), and a tour of craft breweries complete with beer tastings at each stop. They have the option to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike), or to rent a bike for the duration of the tour. They boast “friendly shop staff” and rightfully so. Kate was enthusiastic and excited, and knew so much about the city. The folks who helped the group with their bikes and helmets were super friendly and genuine. This tour should be on everyone’s “must do” list, both visitors and locals alike. Be a tourist for a day, and fall back in love with your city.