Monthly Archives

September 2016

America, Photography, San Francisco, Travel

San Francisco Sunsets & Sea Lions

September 27, 2016

Sunset over Pier 39, San Francisco

When I was little, my Nan and I always used to read a book about how the beautiful colours in the sky at sunrise and sunset are created by dragons, and this vibrant San Francisco sunset took me right back to that book. (If anyone knows what this book is called, please tell me because I can’t remember!)

There are specifically two things I love about sunsets:

  1. The sky looks like it’s on fire, and that’s cool.
  2. Everywhere somehow seems quieter.

Even on a busy pier, full of tourists watching sea lions bark at each other, the world still seems a little quieter and I love that. I love that people come together and stare in awe at something that happens every night, but they perhaps don’t usually have the opportunity to actually watch it and take it in.

Sleepy sea lions at Pier 39

We went down to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions on my first night and it was wonderful watching them loll about, bathed in a pink glow. But it was even better going back during daylight, when some of them were looking slightly active and were winding each other up.

Sea lions sleeping at Pier 39

And I do mean some of them, because most of them were horizontal having a group kip and were very annoyed when a playful young sea lion was trying to get some of the older, lazier beasts to have a little play.

Sea lions at Pier 39

Sea lions at Pier 39

Like this guy here; he was not happy about a mischievous sea lion who kept popping up and poking him, as if saying “come and play with meeee.”

Sea lions playing at Pier 39

Sea lions playing at Pier 39

Sea lions swimming at Pier 39

There were a few plaques up around Pier 39 explaining that the sea lions first made Pier 39 their home in 1989, and that, astonishingly, the all-time record for number of sea lions at the pier was 1,701 in November 2009. I can’t even imagine how noisy that must have been. It’s not really that big an area either, so I don’t even know where they all had a snooze.

I could have sat and watched these guys for hours. Of course I’ve seen sea lions before in zoos but it was great to be able to see them in their natural habitat, which seems weird to say when you consider that it’s in a city.

If you ever go to San Francisco, I definitely recommend a trip out to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions for a while. It can get pretty busy around there (because who doesn’t watch to watch sea lions push each other off pontoons?) but it’s worth the crowds. If you’re not headed to SF any time soon, you’re in luck because Pier 39 does have a sealion cam, so you can watch them play from the comfort of your pajamas on the sofa….or at work if your job is soul destroying.

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Canada, Life, Photography, Travel

14 Reasons why Canada is making me wish my life away

September 23, 2016

Vermillion Lakes

My longing to go to Canada began with my 10 year old self’s obsession with Avril Lavigne (you all had an Avril phase, shut up) and finally, after 15 years, I made it to Canada. The only problem is, it’s making me wish my life away in a way my Nan would tell me off for.

While we were sat in the airport we began planning our return. There are other places on our travel list but I don’t even want to entertain the idea of visiting another country until I have returned to Canada.

Our plan is to visit next Summer and it cannot come soon enough. My Nan would go batty if she heard the amount of times I’ve said “I can’t wait to go back,” in the past two weeks.

 

Bear at the side of the road in Jasper National Park

You can see bears and giant, antlered beasts at the side of the road

In England, the thing you’re most likely to see at the side of the road is litter and a dead squirrel. In Banff and Jasper, at least, you can see bears and huge elk.

We tried not to get our hopes up about seeing a bear but we both really wanted to see one. The Canadian roadside gods must have heard our silent pleas to them because we ended up seeing two bears.

I can’t even begin to describe how ridiculous it seemed to see a bear at the side of the road, having a munch on some berries. WHAT?! WHAT?! I want to live in a country where that is normal. I also need to live in a country where it’s normal to see a huge elk standing on top of a bank at the side of a road, looking out on his land.

 

Night sky, Lake Minnewanka

I didn’t see the milky way

While the Canadian roadside gods were very kind, the Canadian weather gods were not so nice.

It was unseasonably cold for the start of September and pretty cloudy most nights. I’m yet to see the milky way with my own eyes and since Jasper is a dark sky preserve I thought I would come home having seen the milky way. Due to the cloud, there was no chance of seeing it, so I’ve got unfinished business with the Canadian sky.

 

Reflection of the Rockies in Two Jack Lake

I’m convinced some of the scenary was CGI

While we were driving down the Icefields Parkway, we literally could barely believe our eyes. The Rockies didn’t even look real to us. We kept saying it looked like someone had just stuck them in, because the snow capped mountains looked so perfect and so clear.

Lake Louise and Chateau Fairmont

And the lakes? Don’t even get me started on the lakes. The lakes are so teal and blue that they look like a painting you could smudge if you tried to touch them. One of my favourite memories of Canada is when we hiked up to the Lake Agnes teahouse.

Glimpse of Lake Louise from the Lake Agnes teahouse trail

At a couple of points during the trail, there’s a gap in the trees and you can look down and see a glimpse of Lake Louise which looks the most ridiculously shade of blue you could imagine. I am 99% sure it was cake icing, like some kind of showstopper challenge from the Great British Bake Off, or something BECAUSE LAKES AREN’T THAT BLUE, SURELY?

So, I need to go back to make sure the mountains and lakes are definitely not CGI, or cake icing.

 

Canmore, Alberta

It felt like home and I need to find a way to get the Canadians to accept me as one of their own

I now know exactly how my Mum feels about Ireland; Canada just felt like home. It felt like I was supposed to be there and once I’ve finished my masters, the Canadians can look out because I’m determined to move there. (Parks Canada, if for some reason you’re reading this, I would honestly love to work for you guys testing water, looking at pollution…please?)

 

I need more poutine

Of course I could make poutine myself, but I feel like poutine is like Guinness in Ireland and is much better in it’s home country.

 

Medicine Lake, Jasper AB

The guy on boarder control that annoyed me

Look, I know that boarder control are supposed to be hard faced and a little snarky because they don’t want people sneaking in and staying forever. This is a snippet of the conversation I had with a guy at boarder control:

Boarder control: Why are you visiting for seven days?

Me: Because I’ve just been to San Francisco, and this is all my holiday used up.

Boarder control: Why Canada?

Me: Because it’s beautiful.

Boarder control: At this time of year?

Me: Yes.

Ok, sir, if you think Canada isn’t beautiful in September;

  • You are a little bit nuts or sarcastic (I respect either.)
  • I need to see what it’s like in the summer to find out if it is more beautiful, or if you’re being sarcastic.

Plus, I hope I get you next time and I can tell you I’m coming back for two weeks because you were suspicious about a seven day visit. Maybe not, that kinda comment sounds like something that would stop me entering the country – a little bit like when UK border force told my Dad to stop making daft comments or she’d be looking at his sun tan from the inside, BURN!

 

Best pizza, at Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company

The best pizza in the world

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will remember that two years ago I declared a little pub in Germany as having made the best pizza in the world. I have eaten a lot of pizza since then in my quest to find a better pizza, and the Canadians rose to the challenge.

While we were staying in Canmore, we went to the Rocky Mountain Flatbread Company, where they have a huge pizza oven in the corner of the restaurant and oh my goodness. The pizza it creates is one of the best things to ever touch my taste buds. It is, easily, the best pizza in the world and if you think I’m only eating that pizza once, you are delusional.

 

We didn’t get to go to Lake O’Hara

Nestled in Yoho National Park, Lake O’Hara is an exclusive lake. The area is so special that it’s essentially ticketed. There are three ways to get in:

  1. You can buy a highly sought after bus ticket and camping pass, which sell out faster than tickets to see Beyonce.
  2. You can walk in
  3. You can cycle in

You cannot drive in, and the road from the car park is about 11km long. I’m hoping that we will be able to get a bus pass and squeeze in a visit, because it looks absolutely stunning.

 

Moraine Lake

There are lens flares on my photos of Moraine Lake

Horrendous, I know; it was too sunny and I need to go back and take some more photos.

It seemed like every lake we visited (apart from Maligne Lake, which tried to kill us and end our bright canoeing careers far too early) was more beautiful than the last, so it makes sense that the last lake we visited was the most beautiful.

The water was a stunning colour, it was actually sunny, and so peaceful; apart from the Instahooligans who were straying off the path, hanging hammocks, and climbing over rocks to get the most Instagram-worthy photo.

Instahooligans, by the way, is the name I’m giving to idiots who don’t care for protecting the beautiful places they’re in and wander off the paths, trampling foliage, to get the “best photos”, despite the signs asking people to stay on the path to allow plant regrowth….See, Parks Canada, I am already incredibly passionate about protecting Canada. In fact, I might just have created my own job; Instahooligan repeller. I will hide behind rocks and in bushes with a large water gun and soak any idiot who strays off the path because they want a “better photo”. Don’t worry, I’ll provide my own cape.

 

Canoeing on Lake Louise

I know I can be better at canoeing

Maligne Lake was not kind to us with the wind, waves, and tour boats and made it pretty hard for us to actually get anywhere because we could not canoe against the wind and waves. We had a much better and significantly less stressful canoeing adventure at Lake Louise, but I am determined to visit Maligne Lake on a calmer day and show it who’s boss.

 

Pancakes at Melissa's Missteak, Banff

I need more huge pancakes

Honestly, I think one of the best dates you can ever go on is a breakfast date. We went out to Melissa’s Missteak in Banff one morning and I ate the biggest, and most delicious pancakes ever.

In the UK, when you go out and order pancakes, they are tiny little things, but not in Banff. In Banff, you get delicious, thick, fluffy pancakes that are bigger than your head.

 

Lake Agnes, early morning

I’m unfit

Since most of the places we wanted to visit were right at the edge of the Icefields Parkway, or had carparks next to them, we didn’t do that much hiking. So when we did hike, we discovered how unfit we actually are.

The Lake Agnes teahouse hike was an eye opener and we kinda tentatively thought about doing the Plain of the Six Glaciers, but hadn’t got it in us. There were a couple of other hikes we wanted to do but just didn’t have time to fit it in.

We’re determined to return to Canada fitter, and do a bit more hiking.

 

It’s seriously chill

I don’t know if this is a cultural thing or not, but it seems like in England when people go on holiday we like to ask people if they saw “any trouble”, or litter. I really don’t know why.

We actually tried to play spot the Police Officer but it was so hard. We saw one Police Officer during our entire trip, and she was eating breakfast with a friend, either having finished a shift or about to start.

Everywhere we went seemed so relaxed, the people were friendly and polite, there was no hassle, or litter. <– Pretty much everything a Brit wants when they go on holiday.

 

I want to get back on that Pokemon gym in Calgary Airport, and find that Taurus in Canmore

I’m not the biggest Pokenerd I know (believe me, I know a lot, including my boyfriend) but I did just about manage to get a spot on a gym in Calgary Airport. It’s only the second gym I’ve ever got on (the first one is at my work, which of course all the staff love) and I feel it is my duty to improve and take the gym next time, even if it’s just for 10 seconds.

On the last morning we stayed in Canmore, my boyfriend spotted a Taurus and we didn’t quite manage to find it. We were hoping to return home with some new, exotic Pokemon but the Taurus eluded is – not next time, Taurus, not next time.

 

Why Canada is making me wish my life away and why you should go

Have you ever been anywhere that’s felt like home and you’ve longed to go back to?

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America, Photography, San Francisco, Travel

3.5 Days in San Francisco

September 20, 2016

Sunset at Pier 39 sea lions San Francisco

Three and a half days in San Francisco is nowhere near enough to see everything the city by the bay has to offer, but it was just enough time to tick off all the big things I wanted to experience. 

Not only did I get to visit a beautiful city, I also got to meet one of my favourite bloggers and friend, Cat from Oddly Lovely and explore the place she calls home with her.

 

Thursday night

Refreshed from a lot of sleeping on the plane (about 75% of the 11 hour flight), I was completely up for Cat’s suggestion of heading into the city and seeing San Francisco for the first time.

Beautiful sunset over Pier 39 in San Francisco

Sleeping sea lions at San Francisco's Pier 39

While I couldn’t quite make out the Golden Gate Bridge through the evening fog, I was treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen. I remember watching it, while the sea lions of Pier 39 barked and grumped at each other, and wondering if the sky had been Photoshopped because that’s exactly what it looked like. I don’t ever remember seeing a sky look so ridiculously perfect and like it’s straight out of one of the Instagram pages I follow.

Because no trip to anywhere is complete (for me at least) without a trip to the Hard Rock Cafe, we filled up on delicious food and began comparing the differences between the UK and the US.

With a stomach full of spicy macaroni cheese, I slept pretty soundly.

 

Friday

Lands End San Francisco

Before I got out there, Cat had been asking her friends what we should do, and so many of them suggested Land’s End. Now, I have been to Land’s End in Cornwall and I feel like Land’s End in San Francisco is significantly better. For starters, it was not foggy, cold, or wet; it was warm with a gentle breeze, very blue, and just better looking.

Golden Gate Bridge from Lands End

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Lands End

With the fog having already cleared, I got my first proper view of the Golden Gate Bridge and it is a beauty.

The Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

Because I wanted a better look, we headed on down to Baker Beach to burn our toes in the sand and dip our feet in the water.

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

I’m sure this shot is a lot easier when the tide is out, but it required clambering over rocks and if you met my boyfriend you would quickly find out that he calls me “shit cat”; I’m very good at getting up things, but absolutely appalling at getting back down. I just have no balance when it comes to getting down things, and the amount of times I have almost destroyed my camera doing so is endless – I should probably get that thing insured.

Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach

If I could have called the Fire Brigade to get me down off the rocks, I probably would have.

Fortunately, my camera and I made it down in one piece.

In the UK, we have this little ol’ chocolate brand called Cadbury’s and in our opinion it is the best chocolate in the world; it is a British institution and we were fuming when Kraft brought it (and we are still very bitter about it), and American chocolate is disgusting. (Incidentally, ‘American chocolate’ is more disgusting now because we are convinced that Kraft are going to change the recipe and turn our beloved Dairy Milk into something disgusting. So much so that we revolted when they changed the Creme Egg recipe – yeah, so this and the Great British Bake Off being sold to another TV channel is the kinda stuff that really riles us Brits up…never mind the important stuff like the NHS being privatised by our scummy government. That got political quickly…)

Ghirardelli's chocolate shop San Francisco

Ghirardelli's sundae

Cat was determined to prove me wrong and destroy my perception of American chocolate and she did an amazing job by taking me to Ghirardelli’s to experience their chocolate and legendary fudge sundaes. Prove me wrong she did because it was far from disgusting and I long for that sundae now.

Sea lions at Pier 39

Sea Lions playing at Pier 39

We headed on back down to Pier 39 to watch the sea lions again. They’re such funny little characters and after watching them for a few minutes you kind of get the feeling they like playing up to all the attention.

I watched those two sea lions for minutes, trying to wrestle each other and pushing each other off the pontoon / whatever it’s called, only for the other one to get back on it and they’d start all over again.

A big day in the city wore us out and we vegged out watching the Great British Bake Off (I CAN’T BELIEVE AMERICA DOESN’T HAVE THEIR OWN VERSION!), and went to the best cinema in the world (because it had sofas and sofa-service food) to watch Hunt For The Wilderpeople – which, by the way, is hilarious and well worth a watch.

 

Saturday

Morning bun from TartineTarts in Tartine

My second full day in San Francisco started in the best way possible; delicious pastries from Tartine. Honestly, if you ever visit go and try one of their Morning Buns because it is like sex in your mouth; it’s like a cinnamon bun and a sugary doughnut had a baby…a delicious baby.

Painted Ladies in San Francisco

Saturday was pretty chilled out in comparison to Friday, and we visited the Painted Ladies, marveled at the beautiful houses, and strolled down Haight-Ashbury.

Haight Ashbury

Haight Ashbury

I’d been really excited to visit Haight-Ashbury before I went and I’m kinda glad Cat told me not to get too excited because it wasn’t quite as good as I expected it to be. Sure, it was fascinating and really interesting to hear about the history of the place, but I guess it’s never going to be as good as it was during it’s inception.

Street art down Haight Ashbury

We slipped into Amoeba Records and I very, very nearly ended up trying to figure out how to stop baggage handlers destroying a vinyl record but I thought better of it and left the store empty handed, but very jealous of the fact I don’t know of a record store like that anywhere near me.

 

Sunday

We thought we did pretty well getting up early to head on over to Muir Woods, but unfortunately it was not early enough and their ridiculously small car parks were full and we had a good 30 minute trek from the car to the ticket desk.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

The walk was well worth it though, because being able to stand amongst the red woods and take in the strange, fairytale-like light was incredible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t capture this light all too well, but you’re just going to have to believe that it looked like a unicorn might step out of the shadows at any point.

Another thing I managed to tick off my list was drinking Snapple again. I know, I know, it’s a weird thing to want to do on holiday, and you can get it in the international section at Tesco – but it costs a fortune! Though, I’m sure it’s cheaper to spend a fiver on a bottle of Snapple than about £250 on a flight to San Francisco…we’ll just ignore that.

I didn’t know before I went, but San Francisco is pretty famous for it’s literary scene. Cat took me to City Lights, the most famous bookshop in SF, and told me all about the Beats and the Beat Movement in the 40s and 50s.

While I do (just about) have the will power to leave a record store empty handed, I have never possessed the will power needed to leave a book store empty handed. And since I was in Beat territory, there was no way I could leave without an iconic book from the movement. I ended up picking up On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and I’m loving it.

We picked up delicious Mexican food on the way back, watched some more Bake Off and ended the trip with a round of trivia, which we didn’t actually fail too badly at.

The next morning, I was up very early for a trip to Yosemite, which I will be fangirling about sometime soon.

If you ever have the chance to visit San Francisco, I highly recommend it and I’m sure I’ll find my way back there in the future to explore the city again.

How to spend three and a half days in San Francisco

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