I squeezed in a baby trip to Toronto a couple of weeks ago. Sugarface was there for work and even though I couldn’t visit long, I indulged and joined him for just under 48 hours. I worried about whether it was worth the expenditure for such a short trip, but now I know I don’t regret it and would do it again! We stayed downtown and mostly kept our exploring within walking distance from our hotel. Downtown Toronto was just teeming with restaurants. We ate so well but most exciting to me was that we had poutine. I have been to Canada and have eaten poutine but I’ve never eaten poutine in Canada! (Read more about our delicious meals on my food blog.)
Aside from all the eating, we also walked by the CN Tower, visited Ripley’s Aquarium, where we were mesmerized by eels and jellyfish, and explored Graffiti Alley. During our first night there, I met an internet friend whom I’ve known for almost 6 years. I like how being a blogger has made it possible for me to have friends around the world. I’m also glad I can add Toronto to my adventures with Sugarface. We’ve only been on two international trips together, the first one not too long ago, and each time it becomes clearer how much I love having him by my side when I explore this world.
So that concludes my weekend recap in Toronto. I already miss it and want to go back. If I ever make it back, I’m definitely going to plan for a day trip to Niagara Falls! Have you ever been to Toronto?
I haven’t finished blogging about Spain, (which I can’t believe was already a month ago), but I just came back from another trip, this one a mini one compared to Spain. Sugarface had a work meeting in Toronto and I joined him for the weekend. Two days were only enough to whet the appetite. I plan on writing a weekend recap, but I had a handful of photos from the Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada I wanted to share and thought it deserved its own photographic post.
It rained all day on Saturday. Staying dry in an aquarium was the perfect rainy day activity! Ripley’s is a moderate size aquarium with a wide array of sea creatures. Most impressive were the long shark tunnel and the jellyfish room, both magnificent in their own way. It’s also located adjacent to the CN Tower, so you can batch those two sights together when you’re in town. We enjoyed watching the piranhas feed on shrimp and the eels being feisty. I included the video of the latter at the end of this post. If you have your sound on, you can hear the bystander’s Canadian accent, which made me smile.
Later that night, back at our hotel room, we rewatched the “Under the Sea” scene of Little Mermaid. Because of course.
I had only one site in mind for my trip to Barcelona way before I started planning and fleshing out our itinerary and it was the Sagrada Familia. I knew it is glorious from the photos I’ve seen but seeing it in person still took my breath away. Sugarface and I spent an afternoon there listening to the audio tour and detail hunting. The abundant intricacies and majestic grandeur were a feast for the eyes. If you only see one thing in Barcelona, make it the Sagrada Familia! Here’s a list of ten facts to further entice you.
10 Facts about the Sagrada Familia
This cathedral is regarded as Antoni Gaudí’s unfinished masterpiece. He spent about 40 years designing and building the Sagrada Familia. It’s scheduled to be finished in ten years, around the 100 year anniversary of Gaudi’s death. (Many are skeptical about this deadline being met but I am optimistic!)
The first stone was laid in 1882.
Gaudí lived on site and dedicated the last years of his life to this project. He was unpaid!
Only the apse, crypt, and the Eastern facade dedicated to the Nativity were completed before he died. I learned what an apse is with the audio tour; it’s an semicircular recess covered with a semi-dome.
Gaudí was hit by a tram and due to his shabby dress and lack of paper identifications, the hospital mistook him for a beggar and neglected care. He died three days later.
He was buried in the crypt in the cathedral.
After his death, his assistant Domènec Sugrañes took over for 12 years. Since then a handful of architects and sculptors have collaborated on the finishing of this project, some of whom worked closely with Gaudí.
Construction was and still is funded by visitors and donators.
Occasionally, masses are held at the cathedral, but it is invite only. You can stalk the website for details on how to acquire invitations once there’s a mass scheduled.
Their Twitter account gives frequent updates on the construction and also provides more fun facts!
Sources for my list of fun facts: multiple guidebooks, the Sagrada website, the audio tour onsite, and our fun bike tour guide from Fat Tire Tours.
Buy tickets online to save time from waiting in long lines.
Access to towers and spiral staircases are not included with general admission. We learned this the sad way.
You can buy discounted combined tickets if you purchase admission to both the Sagrada and Casa Museu Gaudí, located adjacent to another famous Gaudí creation, the Park Güell.
The following shots are from Sugarface’s phone camera!
Some of the first things I pack when I leave on a trip are books. I get more reading done when I’m on vacation then generally in my everyday life. I guess not having a laptop with internet connection to distract me helps! I’m heading to Barcelona this week and in an effort to reduce the weight of my carry-on, I’m taking advantage of the new Kindle my sister bought me. I also made sure to accommodate my budget by only bringing books readily available to download from my local library. These five books made the cut!
Have I told you one of my biggest travel regret? I try to visit a bookstore at every travel destintation when possible. I was roadtripping through Nashville and planned on visiting Ann Patchett’s bookstore. I had a small window of time one morning before having to drive to Kentucky. What did I do instead? I got sucked into a Scandal marathon on Netflix. Oh the shame!
I’ve seen this title around last year but never investigated. Then Lisa listed it as one of her favorite books read in 2015. We had a lot of books in common so I figured I should give this one a try too!
I only heard of this book because of the movie released this year, which I haven’t seen either. Downloaded in hopes that it’s a fun and light read. I’m not particularly excited about this book but just curious enough to peek.
Disclosure: I was comped rides to the airport from Blacklane and a boat tour from Get Your Guide.
I can’t believe it’s been a full month since my weekend trip to Miami! I’ve mentioned in various parts of the internet how special this trip with my parents to Miami was.
One thing I appreciate about adventuring with my parents and especially my mom is that they are easily pleased. Because they spent much of their last few decades working from early mornings to late nights including weekends, it didn’t leave a lot of time to experience much else. I’ve enjoyed introducing them to new experiences however small or large. For instance, I was given complimentary luxury rides to and from the airport from Blacklane, and my mom was floored that a chauffer was taking her to the airport in a Town Car. She was wide-eyed and tickled that a man in a suit held the door open for her.
This trip aligned with my dad’s 72nd birthday. My thoughtful friend and our hostess Nazanin bought a birthday cake for my dad. She is like a sister to me and by the time the weekend came to a close, she had further and forever endeared herself to my parents. This photo is one of my favorites from the weekend!
Now what’s a travel recap without a list of our sights and activities?
Island Queen Cruises
I booked a 90 minute boat tour with Island Queen Cruises through Get Your Guide and it was the perfect activity for my parents. My dad’s stamina isn’t what it was, so being able to sit and relax on a boat and admire the sunset was a treat for us all. The tour guide gave us juicy details of sprawling celebrity mansions. There were some jaw-dropping homes! One such home had an outdoor AC system! Finally, I loved how the downtown skyline twinkled and reflected in the water after dusk.
It is customary for me to visit bookstores when I travel. I collect these visits to bookstores as my mental souvenirs. My dad and I are both avid readers so I also had him in mind. I’ve seen Books & Books in Coral Gables listed on a few travel sites. It was the first time I browsed a book store with both my parents and I relished it. I liked how we separated and merely smiled at each other if our perusing crossed paths. Even my mom who doesn’t enjoy reading found herself lost in the cookbooks. I bought A Tale for the Time Being.
Nazanin and I stayed up late gossiping and thus overslept the morning we planned on taking my parents to Vizcaya Museum and Gardens before our lunch reservations. Oops! We ended up only having an hour and a half at Vizcaya. I paid extra for the house tour which I didn’t realize would take a full hour just to cover the first floor of the mansion! It ultimately worked out since it was so hot and humid outside in the gardens that by the time it was time to leave, everyone was done. I recommend setting aside more time. The house tour only covered the first floor but guests were free to explore the additional floors on their own. The gardens were breathtaking! It reminded me of the Biltmore in North Carolina.
You can’t visit Miami and not visit the beach! Especially if it’s the inspiration of your trip. It was cloudy. It was cloudy a couple of years ago when I last visited Nazanin too. I prefer cloudy days at the beach though. It feels romantic and moody. Nazanin and I laid out and gossiped some more while my parents walked the beach.
Full Disclosure: I was provided a complimentary stay from Glamping Hub in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for this post.
When Glamping Hub contacted me about their new database, Texas Weekend Getaways, I had so much fun perusing their rental properties. I had been feeling the urge to get away for a weekend with Sugarface and my pups. They have beautiful properties listed, all promised relaxing seclusion. You can filter your searches for pet-friendly properties and to cater to bigger groups. They also offer unique options such as tepees and tree-houses. Which honestly, would have been my first choices when I looked for myself, but the tepees and tree-houses listed were not pet friendly! Still, it wasn’t a big loss since I found this beautiful property two hours away from Austin in Fredericksburg.
The listing had two neighboring cabins you can book together, each with two bedrooms. Sugarface and I stayed in the smaller cabin. There’s a full kitchen and Beverly, the owner left us fresh eggs from her farm. The space was warm and inviting and we loved the that there was no cable TV or WiFi. It really enabled us to enjoy the scenery with the dogs and each other’s company. We spent an evening playing scrabble while drinking pink champagne. It was cozy and idyllic.
Since the cabins were situated on a farm, our dogs Bob and Neva saw their first cows, sheep, and donkeys. A word of warning, the donkeys are not tame and will attack if they feel threatened. Mischievous Bob and Neva might have learned that on their own and were lucky to escape a trampling. Of course their narrow escape just thrilled them further. They were so happy to be out of the city and I’m sure if they could, they’d recommend Beverly’s cabins to you too. You can see evidence of this sentiment in one of the photos I shared below.
We managed to leave our weekend haven long enough to go on a hiking adventure at Enchanted Rock and experience downtown Fredericksburg, which was only fifteen or so minutes away. I blogged about the restaurants we dined at on my food blog. All in all, it was the perfect Texas Weekend Getaway and I am so grateful for the memories!
Questions: Do you try to travel with your pets or leave them at home? If the former, tell me about some of your vacations with your pets!
Full Disclosure: In exchange for an honest review, Glamping Hub is providing me with a stay at one of the properties listed in their new database Texas Getaways. I was not monetarily compensated. Stay tuned for the review!
I am so happy Glamping Hub contacted me about their new database, Texas Weekend Getaways. I had never heard of them before and spent hours browsing their sites and dreaming. With new constraints in my budget and PTO and dogs to consider, I’ve been dreaming about weekend getaways that are within driving distance from Austin, Texas and also will let me bring my two puppies. Glamping Hub’s Texas Weekend Getaways is such a great resource for those interested in a relaxing and secluded getaway in Texas. There are options that are pet friendly and for big groups. Their properties are carefully curated and they even offer unique options such as tepees and tree-houses! I hope to try out their service in February. Check back then for my follow-up!
Questions: Have you ever glamped or stayed in a tepee? What are your dream getaways?
I love all the common interests I have with my friends, but I also appreciate the differences. It’s the differences that challenge me and expand my horizons. I’ve mentioned last year that the Grand Canyon wasn’t high on my must see list but Ashley who is interested in seeing all the National Parks (multiple times even!) insisted we visit Grand Canyon last year. It was the first trip I took that wasn’t a metropolitan destination, my first hiking trip even. I loved it.
This year she made a compelling 10 point argument that we have to visit Zion National Park. I’m not sure why she went through the trouble of making a 10 point list as I’m certain all she had to do was say, “Hey! We’re going to Zion National Park this year!” and that would have sufficed. Ashley, Nicole, and I took a long weekend and hiked Zion, with Ashley as our experienced tour guide.
Nicole and I flew into LA on Friday and Ashley drove us across three state lines to Springdale, Utah just in time for a late night dinner, where weirdly, I had an exceptional meatloaf. Really. The next day we woke up after sleeping like logs and had a “late riser’s” breakfast before embarking on our hike to Angels Landing. Ashley once sent me a video of someone hiking Angels Landing. In that email sent last year, she said, “When we go to Zion, you might want to sit out Angels Landing.” That video did a better job conveying how amazing and awesome and scary the hike was than any of my photos. (Also, I was too busy holding on to safety chains to even try to capture the greatness.)
When we reached the top of Angels Landing, I knew that it was an important moment in my life. Ashley’s passion has become a little bit of mine. It also made me miss Sugarface. I texted him that night telling him I want to hike to awesome places with him.
The next day we hiked to Weeping Rock, Emerald Pool, and Hidden Canyon. We saw our first 360 degree rainbow at Emerald Pool, climbed a hanging sidewalk to get to Hidden Canyon, and let Weeping Rock weep on us. On the hike to Hidden Canyon, I was tired and hangry and when my hips got wedged in between two rocks, I fell apart in laughter that almost resulted in me peeing myself. Nicole asked me what was so funny. Through tears and laughter I said, “I’m stuck in between a rock and a hard place!”
On our fourth day together, we drove back to California, flanked by storms and ambushed by tumbleweeds. I didn’t know tumbleweeds were a real thing. Apparently you don’t want to drive through them as they get stuck under your car. We ended our last night together watching Pitch Perfect 2 and with late night conversation. The next morning we had breakfast and aggressively hugged each other at the airport.
I had already begun to miss these girls before I even got off the plane on the first day together. So you can imagine how much I miss them now. I’m both grateful and sad that we see each other once a year. I’m sad because it’s only once a year! Grateful because we make it happen despite living very separate lives in different corners of the country.
I was going through my old photos to post a Throw Back Thursday on my Instagram account when I found photos from last July when I was road tripping through the Carolinas by myself. I drove to Charleston, South Carolina specifically to visit Angel Oak. Standing at 65 feet tall and believed to be over 1,500 years old, Angel Oak is by far the most magical tree I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing in person.
If you are ever in the area or are like me and just want to be in the area, they are open 9-5 and charge no admission.
I love Houston. I love her food scene. I love her museums. A lot of my close friends live in Houston. I love the diversity of the population and I love the art! If you’re in Houston from now to February 22, I strongly recommend checking out the Bruce Munro Field of Light exhibit at Discovery Green. The field is illuminated between 3 to 11 pm. If you’re not in Houston on these dates, check out the link anyway as Bruce Munro has multiple traveling exhibits.
I had so much fun setting up a borrowed tripod and taking these shots. The one photo of me was taken by my photography coach and friend for life, Thomas L Chen. You can read more about this night from his perspective on his blog.