Archive for February, 2010

Ottawa is more than politics, it’s a city steeped in history. Granted, its not the most historic city in Canada (that honour goes to Quebec City), but there’s still lots to offer would be travelers.  Here are 5 Reasons to Visit Canada’s Capital.

  1. Byward Market this a must on any and every visit to Ottawa.  The Byward Market is surrounded by everything from Irish/Scottish Pubs, to cafe’s, to fine dining.  Not to mention great souvenir vendors and street performers. During the day you can find a Farmer’s Market selling all sorts of yummy fruit and veg. I love wasting a day wandering through Byward when I’m visiting Ottawa.

    Street Performers at the Byward Market

  2. Beaver Tails– No, we don’t eat REAL beaver tails! We do eat extremely yummy fried dough smothered in chocolate or sprinkled with cinnamon, which we call Beaver Tails.  These yummy snacks can be bought in several places in Ottawa, one of them being the Byward Market!
  3. Rideau Canal– It’s a canal, how exciting can it be! In the spring/summer take some time to cruise along the canal. It’s a beautiful ride and a great way to learn a little more about Ottawa. During the winter months the Ridea Canal is THE place to go ice skating, and enjoy some Beaver Tails.

    The Rideau Canal

  4. Parliament– I have to admit, even as a Canadian Citizen, visiting Parliament was never an interest of mine. It wasn’t until I visited Ottawa with someone from Switzerland that I actually bothered to walk over to Parliament Hill. He was interested in seeing the changing of the guard, which we did. I was curious about the actual building, so that’s where we went next.  Gaining access wasn’t that hard. We had to check our bags, but admittance was free!  The best part was the view from the top of the tower. Absolutely breathtaking!

    Changing of the Guard- Parliament Hill

  5. HI Ottawa Jail– I can’t think of a better place to stay in Ottawa.  Located close to the Byward Market, HI Ottawa Jail offers an interesting view into Canada’s history. The site of the last public hanging, much of the hostel is still the same as it was during it’s jail days.  Stay in your very own cell- the door is pretty dang heavy! I could swear I heard “noises” while I was there. I tell ya, there is nothing like being anxious about having to pee at 2am and running back to your cell afterward!

    HI Ottawa Jail


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Roasting Chestnuts on Opening Weekend of 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver

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Earlier this week I was nominated by @backpackerboy of Top Backpacking Destinations to participate in Tripbase’s Project, “My 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets”. I must admit, I was flattered and intrigued, then I was stumped as to what my 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets would be. I’ve traveled, but sporadically due to career choices and I’m not sure what I can contribute to this project. However I’m always up for a challenge!  So here we go…

Waterton Lakes National Park- Alberta, Canada

Unlike Banff, Waterton Lakes National Park still has a very local feel to it.  A UNSECO World Heritage site and the Canadian half of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, Waterton is a great place to visit any time of year.  Waterton has great hikes (Crypt, Carthew-Alderson, Bears Hump), yummy pizza (Pizza of Waterton), and one of Canada’s oldest and most famous hotels, the Prince of Wales. Although Waterton is mostly a summer destination, with many businesses closing after Labour Day weekend, Waterton is still a great pick in winter. If you’re looking for a great vista, hike Bear’s Hump.  It only takes about 30-60 mins, but it can be a little steep towards to top. Don’t worry, the walk is easy and the view is amazing!  If you’re not into a steep hike, head over to the Prince of Wales Hotel and stand on the cliff behind the hotel.  Although it can be really windy, it’s a great view of Upper Waterton Lake, the townsite and surrounding mountains.

Carbisdale Castle, Culrain, Sutherland Co., Scotland

I had to tell the conductor ahead of time that I wanted to get off at Culrain so I could get off.  Leaving the platform with my backpack I headed for the crossroads, looked up and made my way towards the castle on the hill. I was kind of excited about staying at HI Carbisdale Castle. Although the walk up the hill/ mountain to Carbisdale Castle almost killed me at the time, I was loving it.  The castle itself is small, secluded and a great place to relax and unwind.  It’s also a short train ride from Dun Robin Castle, former home of Clan Sutherland, which has a great beach behind the castle walls.

Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Okay, so maybe it’s not a big secret, after all its a major gateway to Tibet and the place to go if you want to interact with Pandas.  But aside from those things Chengdu also offers beautiful temples, and lively neighbourhoods. Wenshu Temple dates back to the Tang Dynasty and is Chengdu’s largest and best preserved Buddhist temple.  But if you’re an early riser and looking for a relaxing way to spend your morning, then this is the place to go.  The grounds are vast and utterly breathtaking.  I’m always amazed at how peaceful temple grounds are, especially when they’re in the middle of a large city like Chengdu. The best part is relaxing near the temple, writing in your travel journal while listening to chanting monks.

Now, you may read this post and say “pff, these aren’t secrets!” and maybe they’re not. But they’re unique and special and are worth a visit. We live in a great big world, full of amazing places and people. Sure, this is my current 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets, but after 6 months of traveling through Asia starting this fall can you imagine what my next 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets will be? I’m kind of excited to find out!

What are YOUR 3 Best Kept Travel Secrets? Write your own post and share it with the rest of us!! In keeping with the spirit of the game, I nominate @ibackpackcanada @theaussienomad @AbbyTegnelia and @CailinOneil.

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It’s Back! I apologize for the brief hiatus of Blog Crawl Monday. Two weeks seems like an eternity. However I’m back to having Monday’s off and seeing as I’m staying home more, well I have plenty of time to crawl. This week my crawl started with I Backpack Canada. I love Corbin’s blog, it’s a fantastic way to get to know Canada.  Be sure to stop by Corbin’s blog and check out “The Tunnels of Moose Jaw are filled with Half-Truths and Lies“.

This weeks Blog Crawl…

  1. I Backpack Canada
  2. Pommie Travels– Okay, I love the name of this blog. A long time ago a friends kids use to call me Pom Pommie, so seeing the name for this blog made me smile.
  3. The Professional Hobo– Yeah for fellow Canadians who sold everything to travel the world. I really enjoyed her post “Why Would I Want to Visit Canberra.” Actually, I think Canberra is now on my own list.
  4. My Several Worlds– Great blog! I love the series on learning Chinese with Peggy Lee.
  5. The Aussie Nomad– If you haven’t read Chris’ blog, you should.  It’s a great read, even though he’s on some Vegemite mission!  If you’re traveling soon, check out his post “Travel Packing List Part 1″ for ideas.
  6. Travels of Adam– Adam is another favourite. If you’re new to the Travel Blog scene, be sure to check out his posts on “A Travel Blogger’s Guide to Facebook Fan Page Welcomes” and “A Travel Blogger’s Guide to Using Stumble Upon“.  Personally, I like Wombat Wednesdays…
  7. Forks & Jets– It’s lunch time, I’m hungry. It’s only naturally that I’d click onto this blog. I love their post “5 Secrets of a Healthy Foodie on the Road.

And this is where my crawl hit a bump this week.  As I mentioned on Twitter this morning, I’m discovering that the link world is very small, with a lot of the same blogs repeating (Congrats to all of those who are EVERYWHERE, you’re doing it right!!). This can make it a tad challenging.  I’ve clicked on some blogs today, but couldn’t crawl through as I couldn’t find a links page.  Normally I back track until I can find a blog to click through, but I’ve found some great blogs that I don’t want to ignore.  So we’re deviating this week, just a little bit…

The World By Sea– Audio and Videocasting as he hitchhikes around the world by SEA! I love this. I really enjoyed his post “The Dangers of Israel“. Not to mention his Tokyo video made me laugh. Check out his blog.

Guy and Girl Travels– you had read post by him or by her. I enjoyed their post “Exploring Our Passion“.  In fact I STILL have to do my own Passion Board post as challenged by @GotPassport.

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Not the same dumpster, but you get the picture.

Normally my Mondays are pleasant, filled with Blog Crawls and light chores.  Actually major of the day so far has been doing exactly that. Monday is often my last day off before work, so it’s also laundry day. Now I live on the top floor (4th) of a building with no elevator, so multi-tasking is key. I hate making unnecessary trips up and down the stairs. Yes, I am in fact THAT lazy.  Anyhow!  As per usual I put my wash in and came back upstairs to do my Blog Crawl for an hour before having to go back to the basement to switch everything over to the dryer.  Before heading down I decided to fill the sink with hot soapy water, then grabbed my garbage, change and keys and off I went. As I went outside to throw my garbage in the dumpster I thought my keys were firmly looped around my finger and tossed the bag inside only to discover my keys were NOT firmly around my finger and they quickly followed after making a clanking sound on the bottom of the dumpster. This is what ensued…

“Oh Shit!” I peeked into the dumpster to verify. Yup, there were my keys on their bright yellow lanyard at the bottom of the dirty, smelly dumpster. Now I’ve never considered myself a short person, I stand 5′ 6″ and that’s always been sufficient for me. However I was acutely aware of my height as I stood on my tip toes to look inside said dumpster and my chin barely made it over the edge. “I am so NOT dumspter diving, this is seriously gross”. I desperately looked around to find anything I could use to try and fish my keys out.  I couldn’t get anything from my car as those keys were attached to my apartment keys lying underneath bags of yucky, smelly garbage.  I did find a couple of 2×4’s nearby and used them to prop the lid open while I looked around for a long stick; secretly hoping people weren’t standing in their windows across the street laughing at me.

After pushing garbage around the bottom of the dumpster for like 5 mins (luckily it wasn’t full!) I finally cleared my keys so I could try and fish them out.  However I quickly discovered that moving the garbage bags around was easier than looping my Old Navy lanyard around the stick I found. That’s when I started chanting “Please, please, pleeeeaaaasssseeeeee” and wishing one of the regular homeless guys would stroll by with their shopping carts as I was willing to offer $5 or all my empty bottles if they dove for me keys for me!  After what seemed like an eternity, with my nose burning from the smell of garbage sitting in the warm sun I finally looped the lanyard around the stick.  It then took 3 tries to slow slide the stick up the side of the dumpster so I could reach my keys.  To say they were dirty is an understatement.

I held them out, barely between my fingers with a sour look on my face.  My original purpose for coming downstairs was to switch my newly washed, clean clothes from the washer to the dryer and now my hands were grimy, dirty and smelly.  I immediately washed my hands when I got to the laundry room using Tide as it was all I had.  Hey, ANY kind of soap was a blessing at that point. When I got back to my apartment I quickly washed the dishes in my sink and relished in the scalding hot water before dropping my keys in.  Yes, my keys are soaking in soapy water, make fun of me all you want! haha

Ok, I need to go shower AGAIN!

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Yep, that’s right Day One of No-Social-Life-In-Order-To-Save-Money-To-Travel-In-August has begun. This is not something new, a lot of travelers starve socially before heading out on the road. Or so I hear. My decision is mostly based on my desire to be completely free by mid summer. Travel is my passion, and what good is life if you can’t pursue your passions, right? Although I make decent money, I still need to cut corners and save as much as I can.

Sustainable travel is the ultimate goal, funding sustainable travel is the challenge. I’m a girl, I enjoy shopping, going out, having some fun. But do I enjoy those things more than travel? No way! So for now I’m willing to make some small sacrifices like not eating out, going to movies or taking small getaways. It’s months of eating what I have in my cupboards and doing minimal shopping. It’s opening an account at a bank that’s a pain in an ass to go to and use it for my travel savings. Hey, I can be lazy. If I have to drive out of my way to take money out because I don’t have online banking, I’ll opt out. Sad, but so very, very true! Finding ways to cut corners and save money is fairly easy. I’ve blogged about that a little bit before. Doing it can be slightly harder, but with the right motivation it can be fairly easy as well. The hard question is, “What do I do with all my time?”

Here are a few ideas…

  • Twitter!! Oh yea, if you’re not sick of me on Twitter now, you may be soon. Actually Twitter is a great way to connect with other Travelers, Travel Bloggers, Photographers etc. It’s a fantastic way for me to keep my insatiable appetite for all things creative and travel under control.
  • Stumble Upon is proving to be more fun than I had original thought. When my schedule permits I do Blog Crawls every Monday and stumble the blogs and posts that I enjoy.  Stumble is a wonderful way to share content and to eat up some of my free time.
  • Blogging on my own site has proven to be more rewarding than I initially thought. It’s become a great way to express my thoughts, research future travel, and share past travel. My hope for the future is that you, as a reader enjoy my blog so much that you share it with friends, stumble it and offer any feedback you may have. After all, without you this blog would just be a fancy public diary 😉
  • Facebook has diminished for me a little in the past few months as I’ve been spending more and more time on Twitter. However since starting a fan page for Spunky Girl Monologues I’ve been spending more time on it.

As you can see, I’ll be logging a lot of computer time over the next 5 months, but that’s ok. It’ll keep me home where my money is safer. Plus it gives me a chance to learn about my Macbook, de-clutter my apartment etc.

In the meantime, I’ll be staring at my new desktop photo…

View from Trypp Cayo Coco in Cuba

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