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Canada, Photography, Travel

Athabasca Glacier & climate change

March 21, 2017

The edge of the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park

Today I’m not just going to show you pretty pictures of the Athabasca Glacier and talk about how wonderful it is; I need to get something off my chest and have a little rant about climate change.

About two-thirds of the way up the Icefields Parkway, you reach the Athabasca Glacier. Neither of us had seen a glacier before (apart from on TV) so this was one of our “must see” stops on the road.

Before we went we were kind of confused about access to the glacier. Everything we read made it sound like you had to pay for a trip out onto the glacier on some kind of evil looking off-roading vehicle, but you can actually walk almost up to the edge of it for absolutely nothing.

Pool near the Athabasca Glacier

Athabasca Glacier Jasper National Park

It was quite warm by the time we parked up near the glacier, and it’s kind of weird seeing a huge chunk of ice when it feels so warm. It’s a novelty I didn’t quite get used to while we were in Canada.

What hit me hard was little markers on the path up to the glacier, which showed how far the glacier had retreated in recent years. What you noticed quite quickly was how the speed it had retreated at changed. At the first few markers, the glacier didn’t seem to have been retreating that fast, but then you really noticed how much things had stepped up when you crept towards the present day. In 2014, a conservation manager for Jasper’s National Park said the glacier was retreating five metres per year

The path up to the Athabasca Glacier, Jasper National Park

I’m currently taking the University of Alberta’s online Mountains 101 course (highly recommend it by the way), and one of the topics covered is glaciers. It’s astonishing how fast they’re retreating, and some icefields are already considered to be beyond saving. It really saddens me to hear things like that; that we’ve done so much damage to our environment that things are beyond help. Another added “bonus” of human pollution is that as glaciers and icefields begin to melt, they are re-releasing harmful chemicals into the environment that we used historically and were then trapped in the ice, as well as contributing to global warming.

All of this leads me to right now. Right now one of, if not the, most powerful country in the world has a president who doesn’t believe in climate change and doesn’t give a rats ass about protecting it. Just five days into 2017, London had already broken it’s annual air pollution target for the year. The most recent UK budget didn’t even mention climate change. In general, it feels like protecting the environment isn’t being taken seriously in a lot of countries.

Things like that make me angry, but also inspire me. Things might be about to get a lil’ cheesy now, but we can force change. We can make changes in our own lives, we can put pressure on our favourite companies who are still using packaging which is not recyclable (Quorn, I’m looking at you; make your nugget packaging recyclable!), we can annoy our MPs by writing to them, and websites like 36 Degrees and Change have shown that we can force change by bombarding the people who can actually make decisions with our views. And on a more personal note, it’s this that makes me want to go into environmental research; I want to play my part in protecting our home and every thing that lives on it.

Feel free to chip in and ramble.

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Mwnt, Wales, Photography, Travel, UK

Why Llangrannog should be on your list of Welsh beaches to visit

March 7, 2017

Beach house overlooking Llangrannog beach

When you think about Welsh beaches, you probably think of Aberystwyth or Barmouth, but let me stop you there; because you want to be pointing yourself towards Llangrannog.

I love Llangrannog; it’s fun to try and say (go on, I promise it’s fun), the beach is stunning, the town is charming, the views are amazing, and there are delicious treats to be had.

Prepare yourself for a lot of fangirling about a beach, because you’re gonna be packing your bucket and spade by the time I’m done with you.

 

The beach is beautiful & has caves

Nestled in a little cove, with hills either side of it, Llangrannog beach is my idea of the perfect beach. It’s fairly small, there’s a decent amount of sand for making sandcastles in (very important), and it has a little cave you can go and explore.

It’s not a huge cave but how often do you get the chance to wander into a cave?

Also, at low tide you can walk around the rocks on the right hand side of the beach to get to another little cove. At high tide, you can follow the coastal path over and down to it, but do be careful because the handrails are pretty dodgy – as Daz discovered when he put his hand on one and it just kinda flopped about and wasn’t attached to anything on the other end.

Llangrannog beach

 

The town is adorable

If you’re looking for an “Instagram worthy” seaside town, Llangrannog has got you covered with is multi-coloured buildings.

It’s a fairly small town and has everything you’d need for a day at the seaside, though I do recommend getting there early or avoiding busy periods if you want to park right by the beach because the car park is quite small, and the narrow roads are easier to navigate when there’s less traffic.

Llangrannog beach

 

Perfect for swimming, surfing, or body boarding

I can’t tell you how many days and hours I must have spent here body boarding when I was a kid. The waves are perfect for it, the sea is nice and clear, there’s no rubbish floating about it in (always nice), and it’s not as cold as it looks if you’ve got a wetsuit on.

Llangrannog beach

 

The views

Since it’s nestled between two hills, there are amazing views to be seen either side of the beach. The Cardigan Coastal Path runs right through Llagrannog, so if you fancy a spot of walking while taking in breathtaking views, you just can’t go wrong here.

View over Llangrannog beach

 

ICE CREAM

No trip to the seaside is complete without an unhealthy amount of ice cream. Caffi Patio is right on the edge of the beach and has a delicious selection of ice cream.

 

It’s beautiful

Did I already mention Llangrannog beach is beautiful? Oh, I did? Well it deserves another mention, because look:

Stormy skies over Llangrannog beach

Where’s your favourite beach?

 

Why you need to visit Llangrannog

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Canada, Photography, Travel

Mount Rundle, Two Jack Lake | The best 7am wakeup call ever

February 28, 2017

The reflection of Mount Rundle in Two Jack Lake, Banff

To say I am not a morning person is a severe understatement, so I was a little grumpy when Daz dragged me from our warm tent at 7am. He was right though; the view was worth it.

“You need to come and see this,” Daz said to me, trying to coax me out of the tent.

We spend the last couple of nights in Banff camping at Two Jack Lakeside Camground, which I definitely recommend because it’s a beautiful little spot that is just a short drive from Banff.

It was cloudy most of the time while we were in Canada and I was a little annoyed at not having seen a good sunrise or sunset, but this view of Mount Rundle’s perfect early morning reflection in Two Jack Lake more than made up for it.

Mount Rundle from Two Jack Lake

I’m so glad Daz was up early to spot this because it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I feel like I say that on every post about Canada, but seeing this on our last morning and visiting Moraine Lake were the two high-highlights for me.

Two red chairs at Two Jack Lake, by Mount Rundle, Banff

Red chairs, two jack lake

These are my camping “pyjamas”.

Atop a little hill overlooking Two Jack Lake is two of Canada’s famous red chairs, so if you’re on a mission to sit in all the red chairs, you cannot miss this. Parks Canada has a full list of the red chair locations here.

If you’re stopping in, or visiting Banff, it’s worth visiting Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake. There’s a scenic loop road called “Lake Minnewanka Scene Drive”  just off Highway 1, which is probably a good 15 – 20 minute drive through some stunning scenery. Take note that part of the loop is closed between November – April for conservation reasons; but you’re sure to enjoy the part of the road you can get on.

We loved camping at Two Jack Lake so much that we’re spending a few more nights here while we explore Banff and Canmore some more this summer. Hopefully it will be less cloudy and we’ll be able to see a beautiful pink-orange sunrise or sunset at this spot as well.

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Mount Rundle, Two Jack Lakeside, Banff

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Iceland, Photography, Travel

I saw the northern lights in Iceland & I’m gonna spam you with photos of it

February 7, 2017

Northern Lights over an abandoned house in Iceland

Seeing the northern lights is probably on most people’s “list”, and that dream finally came true for me in Iceland a few weeks ago.

A few months before heading to Iceland, I came across Arctic Shots; a tour company based in Reykjavik that do trips around Iceland aimed at people who are interested in photography. There are lots of trips to see the Northern Lights from Reykjavik, but what I really wanted was someone who could show us how to photograph it, and Arctic Shots were the guys to do it.

We arrived in Reykjavik during the middle of a storm which lasted a few days, and for a while it looked like we might not see the lights at all. Luckily, the weather forecast was perfect for Friday night and we headed an hour out of the city with our guide, Siggi.

The aurora borealis over a farmhouse in Iceland

After a few minutes, a faint green glow appeared in the sky that got brighter and brighter. To my surprise, I discovered that the lights aren’t always as bright as you see them in photos. So, all these photos I’ve got on here? The lights weren’t really that bright to my naked eye; it’s all down to long exposure. Still, it is truly wonderful to see a green glow flicker across the sky.

We left Reykjavik just after 7pm, and we didn’t get back to our apartment until after 1am (I can’t remember the exact time), so we had a good few hours photographing the lights, and Siggi was on hand to help us with camera settings and any questions. (If you’re not entirely convinced that Arctic Shots are the people to take you to photograph the lights, just look at his photos on his Facebook page. I bet you’re convinced now.)

The northern lights over an abandoned house in Iceland

The northern lights over a farmhouse in Iceland

Northern lights over an Icelandic farmhouse

It was about -7C, so we didn’t spend the entire time photographing. To Siggi -7C seemed like nothing to fuss about, but I have never been so cold in my life and I had so many layers on I could barely move. We spent some time on the bus, and Siggi handed out shots of Brennivin, and Icelandic liquor, and hot chocolate to warm us up before we headed back outside.

Photographing the northern lights in Iceland with Arctic Shots

The northern lights behind a cloud in Iceland

This is by far one of my favourite photos I took of the northern lights

Getting to see the lights with my own eyes was a dream come true for me, and I am so glad the weather turned in our favour just in time. If you’re heading to Reykjavik and want to get some fantastic photos of the lights, and with the lights, I cannot recommend Arctic Shots enough.

Tips

If you’re planning to see the lights, here are a few tips I picked up / learnt the hard way.

  • DO NOT FORGET YOUR BATTERY CHARGER. I still can’t believe I did that. I went to Iceland with no battery charger and only two fully charged batteries. I’m such an idiot. Do not forget your battery charger because the cold weather really zaps your batteries, so make sure you head out with allllllll your batteries fully charged.
  • You don’t need to worry about taking a remote for your camera; just put the timer on a couple of seconds and you’re good to go.
  • Take the filter off. I use my UV filter so much that I forget it’s there. Luckily, Siggi spotted it and my photos came out much better afterwards.
  • Have two pairs of gloves. Before I went to Iceland, I discovered glove liners in Decathlon and they are amazing.

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Seeing and photographing the northern lights in Iceland with Arctic Shots

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Iceland, Photography, Travel

Discover Reykjavik with a free walking tour from CityWalks

January 31, 2017

domkirkjan church reykjavik

One of the best ways to find out about a destination is to speak with the locals; and that’s exactly what happens on CityWalks’ free walking tour of Reykjavik.

While my Mum and I were researching what to do in Reykjavik, we came across CityWalks on TripAdvisor. With so many rave reviews, it looked like a great way to explore the city and figure out what else we wanted to do while we were there.

Iceland's parliament building in Reykjavik

We met our guide Sara, a history graduate and local teacher, outside the parliament building; which, by the way, looks very understated in comparison to parliament buildings in other countries. With it being so early, and so cold, we didn’t really expect many other people to be on the tour with us, but there must have been about 25 people. Despite that, we had no problem hearing what Sara was saying and our experience wasn’t at all affected by it being a larger group of people than we expected.

While the snow fell outside the parliament building, Sara told us about the relationship between the Icelandic government and the Icelandic people, and it sounds like a pretty good one. When they were unhappy that their president was involved in the Panama Papers, they protested outside parliament and he stepped down. When Icelandic bankers were naughty in 2008 and fudged stuff up for everyone, Icelanders took to the square with pots and pans, and made a racket. And do you know what? It worked; they held bankers accountable and jailed them.

Tjornin, Reykjavik

From there, we headed to Tjornin, a popular park in the centre of Reykjavik. Thankfully, Tjornin is right next to the Town Hall, which provided us with some much needed warmth for a few minutes.

A yellow house in Reykjavik

Houses in Reykjavik

An elf rock in Reykjavik

Sara took us for a wander through some of Reykjavik’s prettiest neighbourhoods and explained a little about elves. In Iceland, some people believe in elves and being the nice, friendly country Iceland is, people accept and respect the wishes of elves.

When construction was being carried out in a neighbourhood, they came across a rock (yep, it’s that rock in the photo above – doesn’t look that big, huh?) that couldn’t be moved and all the machinery broke. There was no physical reason that they were unable to move the rock, so they decided it was an elf rock and that they needed to respect the elves wishes, and simple moved the construction project somewhere else. How nice!

A street in Reykjavik

Our tour covered other things such as their love for hot dogs, and how much natural energy the country has. Studies have found that even if there were 2 million people living in Iceland (there are around 323,000), they have enough resources for free heating indefinitely. Unfortunately I can’t actually find the source of that comment, but as an environment science fan I got so excited by the mere thought of it.

Harpa, Reykjavik, in a snowstorm

The windows in Harpa, Reykjavik

View over Reykjavik from Harpa

Typical to Icelandic weather, we got caught in a very sudden snowstorm and rushed to Harpa, their concert hall, for warmth. There, Sara continued to tell us about what it’s like to live in Iceland, and it sounds wonderful.

Iceland is a very progressive, welcoming, and open society. They have no military presence, are impartial, and no longer have foreign military bases on their island, as they believed it hypocritical to their peaceful nature. Higher education is very accessible, they seem to have a pretty decent healthcare system, your nationality, religion, or sexual preference doesn’t matter, and there’s a website to find out if you slept with a relative the night before as the population is so small. What more do you even want from a country? In short, Iceland is probably what most people would like their own country to be more like.

If you’re headed to Reykjavik and want to get your trip off to the best start, I cannot recommend CityWalks enough. Though the tour is advertised as free, you can obviously tip the guides. They do also do some other tours, which are paid for; you can find out about those on their website.

Have you ever been on a walking tour?

This post may contain some affiliate links.

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Exploring Reykjavik with CityWalks free walking tour

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Canada, Photography, Travel

Kayaking on Lake Louise, Banff National Park

January 24, 2017

Kayaking on Lake Louise

The tale of the time we went kayaking on Lake Louise is much happier than last week’s post about kayaking on a windy Maligne Lake.

After a couple of days in Jasper, we headed back down the Icefields Parkway to Banff and spent a few days camping at Two Jack Lakeside. (If you’re ever going to Banff, skip the hotel and camp here because no hotel will beat the views from that campsite. Plus you will save a lot of money camping.)

To be honest, I wasn’t fussed about going to Lake Louise. I was expecting it to be a crowded tourist trap and hadn’t got high expectations. My thought process was a little like this; “How can somewhere so touristy beat the likes of Emerald Lake?”.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Don’t get me wrong, it was busy in front of the Fairmont hotel but the crowds dispersed quite a bit once you followed a trail, and it wasn’t like the lake itself was packed with people kayaking. It seemed like a big chunk of the tourists just wanted to see the lake and the hotel and weren’t bothered about following trails; don’t let the amount of people put you off.

On the way up to the Lake Agnes teahouse Daz and I both commented on how beautiful and calm Lake Louise looked in comparison to Maligne Lake, and we both felt like we had some serious unfinished business with kayaking.

Kayaking on Lake Louise

When we returned from Lake Agnes it was mid-afternoon on our last full day in Canada. The sun was shining brightly, the sky was almost as blue as the lake, we had some spare pennies left over and decided Lake Louise was going to right our kayaking wrongs.

kayaking on Lake Louise

Kayaking on Lake Louise

With no wind, it was like sailing in a huge bath filled with the prettiest and bluest LUSH bath bombs. We could barely believe the colour of the water we were sticking our paddles into. It was completely opaque, which didn’t feel quite right for a lake, and seemed more like paint water.

Kayaking on Lake Louise

I think we had an hour on the lake, which was more than enough time because the lake isn’t really that big and it doesn’t take you very long at all to feel serene. You could hire kayaks for longer but I doubt you would need any more than two hours because you’re not allowed to get out of the kayak anywhere apart from at the boat house. 

If you’re going to Banff, I would definitely recommend a trip to Lake Louise because there is so much to do there:

  • Walk around the lake
  • Spend an hour kayaking on Lake Louise
  • Have afternoon tea in the Fairmont
  • Explore some trails; Parks Canada has a list of trails around / near the lake. I would definitely recommend the Lake Agnes teahouse trail.

Tip: While you’re in the Lake Louise area, pay a visit to Moraine Lake. In fact, get up early, visit Moraine Lake first before all the crowds and then head to Lake Louise. You will thank me for the early morning wake up call.

Have you ever been somewhere you weren’t expecting much from and ended up loving it?

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Canada, Photography, Travel

The least fun I have ever had kayaking | Maligne Lake, Alberta

January 19, 2017

Kayaking at Maligne Lake

Maligne Lake boat house

Ok, so this was only the second time I had been kayaking. But, it was significantly less fun than the first time and unless I ever capsize, I think kayaking in heavy wind on Maligne Lake will always be my worst kayaking experience ever.

Before we went to Canada, Daz and I spent a lot of time researching and considering where we wanted to go kayaking in Canada. We settled upon Maligne Lake because it looked incredibly beautiful and we thought it wouldn’t be crowded, because it’s such a large lake.

Maligne Lake

Kayaking on Maligne Lake, Alberta

Granted, Maligne Lake and it’s surroundings are beautiful. It really is. It was the weather that was the problem.

Before we went out, the guy in kayak rentals warned us it might be a bit windy. We’d walked hiked a trail near the lake earlier on and it didn’t seem that bad at all, so like absolute morons we thought “eh, can’t be that bad” and happily got in our kayak.

Happy faces did not last that long. Well, not on my part anyway, as we rapidly discovered that yep, it was pretty windy indeed.

Kayaking on Maligne Lake

Maligne lake from a kayak

We were kayaking against the wind, so trying to go in a straight line was pretty hard and tiring. We would point the kayak in the direction we wanted to go and the wind and waves would just spin us around.

It turns out that I do not handle trying to kayak in a straight line in heavy wind very well and had a small freak out. I was convinced that we were going to capsize, drown and die. Though, I would argue that’s a reasonable fear to have given it was my second time kayaking and I’m not a great swimmer. And like a kid that’s more concerned about their bike when they fall off it, I didn’t want my cameras to get wet!

Maligne Lake in a kayak

Daz managed to calm me down and we did manage to explore a bit more of the lake, and saw other people in boats and kayaks struggling to end up where they wanted to go.  After about an hour of this, we were done for because the wind picked up even more when the lake widened so we couldn’t make any progress and it kept turning us back around. We decided to listen to the wind and headed back. 

Kayaking on Maligne Lake

Much to our annoyance, it took us 10 minutes to get back to the boat house in comparison to an hour it had taken us kayaking against the wind.

Bear at the side of the road in Jasper

A bear at the side of the road in Jasper

As if the universe knew it had some making up to do, we saw a little bear at the side of the road on our drive back to Jasper. There is a happy kayaking story from Canada though, which I will post about soon.

If you’re thinking about kayaking at Maligne Lake, I say go for it; unless it’s windy. If it’s windy, get back in your car and drive away before your brain tells you “it can’t be that bad,” and come back on a calmer day.

Have you ever been kayaking? (If you’re thinking about it, don’t do it in heavy wind.)

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Canada, Photography, Travel

I hiked up a mountain for a brownie | Lake Agnes Teahouse Trail

January 5, 2017

Lake Agnes

It has been said that I will do anything for tasty, sweet treats, including walking up a mountain for it; and that is exactly what happened when we hiked up to the Lake Agnes teahouse.

The teahouse was listed as one of the best things to do in Banff National Park in our Lonely Planet guidebook (I think it was around 3rd or 4th?), and as soon as I heard that there was cake waiting for me at the top of a mountain, I was up for it. The book made it sound pretty easy, but anything which involves uphill is never easy.

Lake Louise

Lake Louise from the Lake Agnes teahouse trail

The trail starts out next to Lake Louise, and climbs up through the forest, with switchbacks and the occasional sneaky peak through the trees down to Lake Louise.

Mirror Lake

After about 30 minutes of walking, you come to Mirror Lake; a nice, peaceful little lake, that you’re so thankful for seeing because it gives you a good excuse to stop and catch your breath.

Waterfall on the way to Lake Agnes

The trail continues for about another 15-20 minutes past Mirror Lake, but it’s hard work because the path turns quite rocky and you have to avoid horse poop. And then, when you think your legs are completely done for, you’re met by stairs. I’m fairly certain we dragged ourselves up those stairs on upper body strength (which I’m not exactly known for having), not leg strength.

But when you reach the top, you realise it was completely worth it.

Lake Agnes

The Lake Agnes teahouse

View to Lake Louise from Lake Agnes

View from Lake Agnes

Lake Agnes itself is beautiful, and it’s nice to perch yourself on one of the cool rocks, catch your breath, cool down, and take it all in. But don’t forget to turn around and look down through the trees, where you can see your starting point.

Following the calm of the lake, prepare for a bit of chaos in the teahouse. The problem is that there are too many visitors for the teahouse; there just simply isn’t enough room. It’s a case of jumping on the first table you see.

A snack is definitely needed before you head back down the trail, and the teahouse has a pretty good selection of cakes and other snacky things. Let me tell you that mountain brownies, cookies, and hot chocolate were exactly what our bodies needed. (Well, probably not. I’m sure a banana would have been healthier.) If you don’t fancy the business of the cafe, you can always take your own snack and flask and enjoy it by the side of the lake.

The prices were alright considering you’re on the side of a mountain and I imagine it’s a pain to get supplies up there. (Interesting fact; I asked the waitress how they got up there each day, and apparently they live up there all summer. Nice, huh?)

Don’t fill up on too much tea and coffee though because there aren’t any toilets, and the closest ones we found were right back at the bottom at Lake Louise.

When you come to head back down, you can either go back the way you came, or there’s another route which I highly recommend because you get this view.

This trail meets back up with the other trail at Mirror Lake, and it’s not any slower or faster, but that view.

If you fancy a bit more of an adventure, you can carry on to The Beehives. While we were driving to Lake Louise, we naively said”we could do the Beehives too if we feel up to it,” HA! Optimistic Daz and Rosie were very wrong; there was no way we were feeling up to it. That said, we have decided to somehow become marginally fitter and do the Beehives next summer if we can.

What lengths have you gone to for cake?

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