5 Cool Things To Do In Portland


Portland Oregon

With no plans for Canadian Thanksgiving and a nice long weekend ahead, we decided to take a road trip and head down to Portland Oregon which is one of our favourite cities in the US. To our surprise Portland was hosting their annual marathon and the hotel prices were through the roof! Luckily we were able to find a great deal at the Kimpton Vintage. It’s super cool boutique pet friendly hotel located in the heart of Portland. Staying downtown with our fur ball, Costa the super dog, was great, and a little more challenging than expected. The pee spots were scarce and the vibe at night felt a little sketchy. Lucky for me, my wonderful husband volunteered to do take Costa out!

The trip was short and packed with good times and here are the highlights:

1) Kimpton Vintage Hotel for its level of service, amazing welcome for humans and furry friends, free wine tasting for you and your dog, cool décor and great location.

2) Mother’s restaurant for breakfast. Be prepared to wait in line and just know that it will totally be worth it.

3) Ground Kontrol for a few drinks while playing vintage video games to the sound of a local DJ.

4) Voodoo Donuts. I think I love the names of the donuts more than the actual donuts themselves. Chuckles guaranteed.

5) Cannon Beach for its pure natural beauty. It’s a short drive from Portland and well worth it. Take a long walk on the beach, bring your surfboard and definitely a wet suit!







9 Things to do in New York City Rain or Shine


Last February we had to go to New York City for a workshop and to our surprise it happened to be the coldest it has been all winter. I have always had an amazing time in NYC but I wasn’t convinced that 9 days in the freezing cold was going to be much fun. We chose to stay at the W Hotel in Union Square which was super close to my training and right in the middle of pretty much everything.

Did I mention that it was really darn cold! Wearing two of everything: pants/long johns, jackets, mittens, etc., we braved the cold in search of finding 9 awesome things to do.

1) Walk across the Brooklyn Bridge
It’s awesome, healthy, historical, and yes it’s even free. Make sure to bring your camera because it offers plenty of amazing views of both the bridge and the city.

2) Visit MoMA
MoMA in case you didn’t know stands for the Musuem of Modern Art. On their website it’s described as: “a place that fuels creativity, ignites minds, and provides inspiration” and I couldn’t agree more! It’s alway rejuvenating when you let yourself get lost in amazingly cool art. And if you get hungry make sure to grab a bite while you are there, their bistro is fantastic!

3) Shop at Your Favorite Century 21
Shop, shop, shop! Century 21 is in my mind one the icons of New York shopping. I remember going there on my first trip to NY when I was 18. I loved it then and I love it now! Everything from the cool little fashion brands through to high end labels are all there and the discounts always impress me.

4) 9/11 Memorial Plaza
The memorial is built on the spot where the World Trade Centre’s twin towers fell in 9/11 and it’s absolutely stunning. The design captures a feeling of deep void as well as the beauty of hope and renewal.

5) Walk the High Line in the Meat Packing District
A decommissioned central railroad line that’s been transformed into a beautiful elevated walkway. It’s a unique 3rd story view of the city complete with it’s old worn down brick buildings and it’s stunning newly built apartments.

6) Empire State Building at Sunset
Step back in time as you rise high above the city in one of NYC’s most iconic landmarks. Not only is it super romantic, it’s also offers amazing views of the sun setting over the Hudson casting a soft pink light across the city.

7) Treat Yourself to a Mani/Pedi
Just like Karate schools in a California strip mall, nail salons are a dime and a dozen in New York! You don’t have to break the bank to treat yourself here and be sure to finish off your appointment with a 15 minute chair massage. Lets just say that the best day ever just got a little better!

8) Shop in Soho
What else is there to say but hooray for shopping in Soho! There is a great mix of cool small independent designers and top name brands with all of the latest fashions to feast your eyes on. While you are at it be sure to stop for a moment to notice the architecture and design of the brick buildings with giant windows and and fun staircases. There is a lot of history in the old buildings of Soho which reminds me of where I grew up in Montreal.

9) Wine & Dine
With so many amazing places to eat in New York, it’s best to make a list because you will want to experience it all. A few of my favourite new findings from this trip were Casa Mono and Flex Mussels.

Despite the freezing cold, visiting New York with a spirit of discovery and adventure made me fall in love with the city all over again. So much so, that I haven’t stopped talking about it and I’ve even been secretly following the real estate listings for cute little Soho apartments. Who knows, Noel and I might be spending more time there in the near future!

Tahiti – A Childhood Dream

Growing up in Montreal, visiting a French speaking paradise island on the other side of the world was always a childhood dream of mine. I remember talking about Tahiti with my cousins Judith and Diane when we were growing up, and to us it was sure to be the best place on earth. With these memories in mind, even exhausted I couldn’t contain my excitement as we flew into Tahiti at 2am. I had no idea planes were even allowed to land so late, but in Tahiti they do. For convenience, we booked a room at the Airport Motel right across the street from the airport. It wasn’t cheap, but it was clean and walking distance from our arrival gate. Still riding my high of finally planting my feet in Tahiti, the steep hill up to our hotel became a fun workout rather than a bother.

Wanting to get to Moorea as soon as we could, Noel and I lost no time and jumped in a taxi to the ferry terminal first thing the next morning. Our taxi ride was only 10 minutes and the fare about $36… a rude awakening to French Polynesian prices. The ferry on the other hand was only $18 each and takes 30 minutes to cross from Tahiti to Moorea. It was beautiful out so we sat outside on the top deck of the boat which provided breathtaking views. It is absolutely beautiful when you approach the Island of Moorea especially when you get close to the reef which contains this stunning turquoise lagoon. The powerful combination of the lagoon and the steep jungly mountains in the background is hard to describe.

For this last leg of our 6.5 month trip, Noel and I decided to take a break from constantly moving around and chose to book 2 weeks at Moorea Surf B&B, which turned out to be the perfect choice. Our plan was to go into full relaxation mode close by to great surf. I had surfed reef breaks before and I was hoping that Haapiti would be fun and mellow enough that I could surf it.

In Moorea the reef where the waves break is pretty far out so having access to a boat is key. Tama, who owns Moorea Surf B&B with his wife Marie, has a small boat that he uses to take surfers out to the break which worked out perfectly. Our first morning, Tama, 2 Brazilian guys, Noel and I woke up early and headed out to the surf minutes before sunrise. Our boards were all strapped onto the front of the boat and we motored out over the shallow lagoon towards the break. When I saw the size of the wave, I knew that I would be the official photographer for the day. I was pretty bummed that they were so big, but Noel was stoked and I enjoyed taking photos. What was really cool is that we anchored the boat just at the edge of the surf so I was able to have front row seats, perfect for taking photos. The next day was even bigger and the following day the waves were so big that we couldn’t even anchor the boat in the channel. The only day, it got a bit smaller, I gathered my courage and paddled out to see if I could catch a wave. I started by hanging off to the side in the channel where the water is deeper so that if a bigger set would come I wouldn’t get worked. Noel saw me sitting way out where the waves weren’t ever going to break so he pointed for me to come inside a little. For the most part the waves were a pretty decent size that day, but every so often a massive set would roll through. When I finally paddled into the line up, my hands were shaking so much that I knew this wave was not for me. Big, hollow at times, shallow reef, currents, not exactly my idea of a super fun wave. Perhaps next time we come back my skills will be good enough that I can surf it, but not this time.

I could definitely have surfed some of the smaller waves coming through, but knowing myself I would have panicked when the big sets rolled in. I was very disappointed as I couldn’t imagine coming to Tahiti and not surf at all, but oh well, that’s how it goes sometimes. Luckily, I discovered a new passion for taking photos and to Noel’s pleasure, he will have a great selection of surf pics to choose from for his next blog. I’m the kind of person who get antsy when I watch other people do stuff because I want to be doing it too, but to my surprise, I kept myself entertained watching the spinner dolphins doing their tricks, swimming by the boat, taking photos and watching the surf.

As you saw in our previous post, we also checked out Teahupoo and it’s massive surf which was totally mind blowing and a highlight of this trip for both Noel and I. The adrenaline rush we got from just being on the boat in these conditions was insane. Even the journey to get there was super cool, the 3 of us, Noel and I and our new Swiss friend Christian were so excited driving through a bunch of small towns and so anxious to get a spot on a boat. One day on the Island of Tahiti was enough though and I was ready to go back on it’s sister island of Moorea.

Renting a scooter is definitely a must as there is so much so see and do on the island of Moorea. The roads are in pretty good conditions and the traffic is almost non existent which makes for an easy ride. If you don’t stop, you can go around the whole island in about 1h30, but we took a lot longer because we found ourself stopping several times along the way. In my opinion, the highlight of our time in Moorea was swimming with the sharks at Tipaniers Beach. You can rent a paddle board to get to the spot in the lagoon where you can see hundreds of sharks and sting rays. Sometimes when I go surfing, I know in the back of my mind that there could be sharks around, but rather than dwell on it I take the, if I don’t see them, they don’t see me approach. I know that it makes no sense, but I don’t like sharks and it works for me so I’m sticking to it.

When our Brazilian friends invited us to join them to go snorkelling with the sharks and rays, I was a bit hesitant. The fact that we would be on paddle boards eased my mind a little because I knew that I was going to be above the water on my personal viewing platform. The sharks are only reef sharks, but they are still sharks! Not to mention get pretty big. Once we paddled our way over to where they were I somehow got comfortable enough to swim with them. At one point I was swimming along with about 10 sharks all really close to me which was amazing.

On the North side of the Island we did a great drive up into the mountains to a spot called Le Belvedere where you get a panoramic view of Cook’s Bay and Opunohu Bay. Along the way there are old ruins of where they used to sacrifice people just like in the movies.

The absolute best was to hang out with my amazing husband at Temae Beach which is the most stunning beach on the island. It’s beautiful and post card perfect! It’s exactly how I pictured things would be if I were to go on the best honeymoon ever.

On our last day the only thing I wanted to do was to go back and lay in the sand and to swim in it’s aqua blue waters so that my last memories would be exactly that. Two weeks in Tahiti, complete with it’s French romance, crystal clear waters, gorgeous sunsets and the love of my life has truly been a dream come true.

On the road in New Zealand

Leaving Australia early in the morning, it didn’t even occur to us to check our flight status and it’s only when we made it to the airport that we were informed that our flight was delayed because of the heavy fog in Christchurch. At that point, they weren’t even sure if we could fly at all as they indicated that the flight was delayed with no real estimated departure time. Noel and I just kicked back for a while at the airport drinking some overpriced coffee until they announced that we would finally fly around mid day meaning that we would most likely miss our connection flight to Queenstown. Not to worry they said, someone would have a plan once we made it to Christchurch. The plan was to fly us from Christchurch to Invercargill which is the most southern town in New Zealand. From there they put us in a van and drove us for 3 hours to Queenstown. What a journey! When we finally made it to our B&B that night, our heads were still spinning.

After being in tropical places for the last 5 months, waking up in Queenstown was like stepping into an industrial freezer, which we did in Australia when we visited our friend Andrew’s refrigerated storage business. When Andrew invited Noel and I to take a tour of his massive refrigerated installations, I only took one step inside before I decided to turn around to wait outside until they returned. My toes instantly curled into a ball and my feet were cramped. That’s about how I felt when I woke up that morning in Queenstown. I thought it was nice and romantic that we had a stove right next to the bed, but it turns out to be an absolute necessity, rather than a mood setter. A funny thing that we noticed is that most houses here in New Zealand are not insulated the way houses are in Canada and most of them don’t have central heating systems. Suddenly, wearing pants, socks and shoes became a necessity. I even purchased a puffy jacket & gloves. Luckily I asked Orb to send me a toque with my last shipment of clothes which has come in super handy.

Queenstown is a gorgeous little ski town right on a lake and surrounded by stunning mountains. The ski season hasn’t started yet, but you can tell that this little town becomes quite busy during peak season. I would love to return in the Winter time to snowboard and see how it compares to Whistler.

Picking up our van from the rental place was fast and easy and for about $35/day, we got this sweet camperized van that has everything you need for a great road trip. It comes with a mini fridge, a sink, a mini gas stove, dish ware, cookware, a double bed, bedding, nice little benches to hang out and a kitchen table that folds down to unveil a map on the wall to help you plan your route. The only extra things that we requested were a GPS and a mini heater since I am always cold! We loaded up our two suitcases and our surfboard bag and off we went exploring.

Not too far from Queenstown, there is a super cute old mining town called Arrowtown that we stopped by for a nice lunch. The next day we headed out toward Milford Sound, making it as far as Te Anau where we spent a chilly night sleeping in the van. Even the little heater didn’t quite keep us warm that night. The next day we drove from Te Anau to Milford Sound which to me is the most stunning drive on the South Island. The sun started to shine amplifying the Fall colours and making for great photos along the way. We stopped at the Divide to hike part of the Routeburn Track leading us to a great view point of the Valley. I would have loved to do the whole track which takes about 3-4 days, but unfortunately it was really cold and we didn’t have the necessary camping gear for such conditions. I really don’t like being cold!

Not to far past the Divide, we came to a long one way tunnel that goes under a huge mountain. When the light went green we drove into this cold rocky hole that’s blasted through the mountain. I was a bit scared at first because instead of going straight, it winds and turns left and right. I was wondering when we would finally see the light at the end of the tunnel! A few minutes later we came out on the other side and witnessed even more amazing views all the way to Milford Sound. There is something hard to describe about being in the mountains where the sun filters it’s way in a multitude of layers as it shines through the fog and bounces off the sides of the mountains creating this mysterious and magnificent scenery.

The only down side about going all the way to Milford Sound is that you have to back track all the way to Queenstown in order to go North along the coastal highway along the West Coast of Southern New Zealand.

Snacks, coffee and singing should entertain us for a while!

Loving life Down Under

Having lived in Whistler for 5 years, a good half of the friends I made are Australians, some of them still living in Whistler and some now back here in Australia. All of them without exception, told me how awesome Australia is so I was super excited to finally come and check it out. Funny enough two friends who I met through Pro Ride Snowboard Camps and who I really wanted to visit happen to live in Manly where we had planned to stay. To my surprise, Manly turned out to be like the Whistler of Sydney, no wonder why my friends choose to live there! It’s really the perfect place as you get the peace and quiet of a smaller beach town with good surf, and you are only a quick ferry ride away from downtown Sydney.

Noel and I were amazed by how nice everyone is here and by the warmth and hospitality that our friends showed us. Between camping with Andrew, Nick and their families, eating out with Chris and touring around and surfing with Stephen, the week we had planned in Sydney flew by way to fast! Meeting with Noel’s long time friend Juliet in Melbourne was also great as we had time to get a nice mix between the city and the surrounding beaches. It’s rare that you can visit a foreign country and meet up with an existing circle of friends. I somehow knew that I would love Australia, but I didn’t think that I would love as much as I do!

Besides seeing kangaroos for the first time, another highlight of the trip was when Andrew introduced us to Tim Tams! Man Oh Man are they good. I usually don’t eat these kind of cookies or super sweet treats, but the outdoors inspired me to dig in and give it a try. I was hooked after the first bite. I was in chocolate trance when the words came out of my mouth “Tim Tams are romantic!”. I have no idea why I said that, but I do hope that they use it for their next ad campaign, because they are truly like a kiss from heaven. I will have to bring a few packs back to Canada.

After some great times with friends in Sydney and Melbourne, we jumped on a plane for Byron Bay. Rolling into such a cool little surf town, and seeing all the beaches along the way, I knew that we would have a great time here. Byron is super cute and surfy which I loved. It’s also a bit on the weirder side of hippy which I wasn’t totally into, but Noel had warned me so it didn’t come as a surprise. You see a lot of legitimate hippies around town, but you also see a lot of self made young hippies, basically a bunch of young kids who have spent more than their share of fun tickets and who probably have a well-off family somewhere waiting for them back home.

I absolutely fell in love with Byron and the whole beach surf lifestyle that Australia has going on. I already pictured all the different sizes and colours of boards that I would have if I lived here! Seriously, the lifestyle here is great and I’m impressed by how food conscious the restaurants are here compared to back in Canada. Most of them serve organic food and they almost all offer really great gluten free and vegan options. Even the grocery stores offer a much wider variety of health food than back home. One more reason why I love Australia so much! After 3 weeks here, I am a bit sad to leave, but knowing that we are coming back for a couple of days after Tahiti and prior to flying back home in June, makes it much better.

After an amazing stay with friends and some great surfing, we are now heading to New Zealand where a camper van is waiting for us to hit the open road. Luckily Noel is a good driver because there is no way I would want to be driving a camper van on the wrong side of the road for two weeks!

Thanks Orb Clothing, You Rock!

I want to give a huge shout out to Orb Clothing for being a such wonderful and important part of our world adventure!

Noel and I are forever in debt to Orb because without them we would have never met. Our meeting is a long and awesome story or true love that’s best told in person so the next time you see us ask us about it.

You have likely noticed that in 99% of the shots of me I’m wearing the latest, and super cutest Orb clothes. That’s because our good friends at Orb Clothing are supplying me with a full travel wardrobe for our adventures. It started from a conversation with Glen about how great Orb Clothing is for traveling. It always looks great, you can wear it anywhere, it packs easy, hardly wrinkles and is super comfy. We were talking with Glen about our upcoming world adventure and he came up with the idea of me blogging and Noel taking photos for Orb while on our adventures. Of course we said Yes, Yes, Yes!

Everywhere we go Noel and I take these amazing photos in some of the best locations in the world. Every week I’m sending both my blog posts and Noel’s photos back to Orb and in turn Orb is telling our story of love and adventure on their website. There is nothing better than working for and representing a company who you totally believe in and respect. Thanks Orb, you guys rock!

Once we have finished shooting all of the clothes that we have with us, they send a new batch to our next exotic location. Not only am I excited to be going somewhere new and amazing, I’m also super excited to see what new clothes they have sent me.

If you love what I am wearing in any of our blog photos, we invite you to have a look at their e-com website: http://www.orbclothing.ca Use our personal coupon code FREEBIRD30 and you will automatically get 30% off your entire order when shopping online!

Did I mention that Orb Clothing is totally cute, super comfortable, travels really well and it looks great when worn casually and dressed up. As you can see, I totally love Orb!

Noel Fox Photography

Loving Life in Beautiful Bali

While we had a great time in Vietnam, Noel and I were more than ready to trade the pho soup for some delicious Gado Gado and satays. Noel’s mom who has been travelling in Borneo for the last little while, decided to come to Bali a little earlier than planned, so as soon as we heard we did the same. A phone call later and we had our new tickets in hand and we were Bali bound. The first leg of our flight was only available in coach and we were ok with it, knowing that Bali’s tropical waters were around the corner. What worked perfectly was that the second leg of our flight was still business class meaning that we were able to enjoy our 3 hour lay over in the Singapore Air first class lounge. Of all the lounges that we visited this one was absolutely awesome and the best that we have experienced so far. The food and drink selection is over the top and the nice ambiance gave Noel and I a chance to catch up on a few emails.

Even though we are mostly visiting places where we had never been before, Bali is an exception. Both Noel and I had been before on separate occasions and we both loved the thought of experiencing this beautiful island together. Last time I was here was nearly 4 years ago when I did my yoga teacher training up in Ubud. Noel’s mom had gotten to Bali before us and had set up camp in Ubud so Noel and I headed straight there once we landed. I was expecting Ubud to be unchanged from when I last left it, but like most thriving tourist destinations in this part of the world, it had grew a little too much for my liking. The are definitely too many fancy shops and way too many taxi drivers harassing you for their business. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still lovely and I would recommend going for a visit, it’s just that it has lost a bit of it’s Balinese character. What I miss the most is that four years ago the Balinese would all great you using Indonesia Bahasa and now they all speak English. Even though it’s convenient, I think that it’s a bit of shame.

Noel and I are determined to get back into our yoga routine and with two magnificent studios in town, it’s perfect to get back into the grove. Our hotel is really close to The Yoga Barn which has a great yoga pavilion overlooking the rice fields and offers tons of different classes. Another studio is Radiantly Alive which is where I did my teacher training. They have since expanded and have a stunning studio right the heart of Ubud, just across from Bali Buddha for those who know the area. It was great to reconnect with one of my teachers, Daniel Aaron and take one of his perfectly challenging classes. Noel and I are hoping that a few classes will be a good kick start for our upcoming week long yoga retreat here in Bali with our good friends Eoin Finn and Insiya Rasiwala-Finn. They are friends from back in Vancouver and they now travel the world with their yoga company which they aptly named Blissology.

One thing that remains unchanged in Ubud is the Monkey Forest that’s in the middle of town. For only a couple of dollars per person, you get to explore this beautiful park that’s absolutely filled with cheeky little monkeys, really neat statues and walkways. These monkeys are not shy at all, allowing you to snap great photos and witness their cheekiness as they jump on tourists backpacks and steal their sunglasses and what ever else they can get their hands on. The babies are definitely the cutest of all, especially when they hang from the mom’s belly while she runs through the trees. It was all fun and games to watch until one the monkeys climbed on a girl and accidentally scratched and cut her back. Noel’s mom and I immediately started thinking about rabies which the monkeys have been know to have and we decided that it was time to go!

While in Ubud, we went to see a traditional Balinese show involving live music and dancing. What was particularly neat about this show was that all of the talent were local women. All of the musicians except for one man who we assume was filling in for his wife had been practicing together for several years and were proud to perform in their bright blue and pink traditional outfits. There was also a troop of great dancers who entertained us for nearly an hour and a half. It was impressive to see all the gestures they incorporated in their dances as well as the facial expressions and movement of the eyes bringing a cartoon like feel to their characters.

After a few fun days in Ubud, we are off to the little car free island of Nusa Lembongan for a week of peace, relaxation and surfing.

A few days in crazy Bangkok

Leaving South Africa was a little more cheerful knowing that we were flying first class on Thai Airways. All the good things that I had heard about the airline were confirmed when we sat down in our oversized seats and the flight attendant offered us an expensive bottle of champagne as a wedding present.

Excited to be in a new location, we hurried out of our hotel room to check out Bangkok’s weekend market, which claims to be the biggest street market in the world, on the other end of town. Jammed pack with people and stuff is how I would best describe this market. Rows and rows of little kiosks crammed next to another as far as the eye can see. You can pretty much find everything here from household items, decorations, art, clothes, shoes, jewellery, food and even massages. We were surprised to see that even though many of these merchants are selling the same stuff, there was still enough variety to keep us entertained. Be warned though, it’s crowded, hot and sticky. Once I was finally able to forget about the smell of the dried fish, I built up enough appetite and courage to have a meal from one of the street vendors. I was a bit worried about the cleanliness of the dishes after I saw how rudimentary their dish washing system is. They set up on the ground, in front of everyone with two big buckets of water and scrub away. Regardless, we ordered some pad thai and shrimp fried rice and to my surprise it was pretty tasty.

As a treat to ourself, we got a nice foot and neck massage from within the same market. Unfortunately right after the massage, I started having a killer migraine which degenerated quickly and next thing I knew I was laying down in the first aid room at one of their sky train stations. Still far from our hotel poor Noel had to drag me around as my eyes were half way closed. I was pretty excited when we caught a cab and unfortunately, the cab driver dropped us off at the wrong location. I guess the stress of this whole situation was just too much for my body to handle so I started throwing up in a plastic bag while still in the cab. I don’t want to go into details here and let’s just say that I’ve never puked so much in one session in my life! Noel quickly helped me out of the car and there I was sitting on the curb with my bag while Noel was running around looking for another cab to take us home. At the end, we made it safely back to our hotel where Noel tucked me into bed with an icy cold towel on my head until I fell asleep.

I felt a bit shaky the following days, so we decided to stay in Bangkok rather than travel north to Chiangmai or to the islands in the south. Seeing as Noel had already been to Thailand a few times and our goal of this trip was to see only the places that neither of us had been to we decided to explore Vietnam instead.

While in Bangkok we visited Wat Phra Kaew, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha which was absolutely stunning. Customs are that you must wear sleeves that cover your shoulders as well as long pants or a skirt to cover your legs. Luckily they lend pants, sarongs and blouses for free which gave me a good laugh when I saw Noel in oversized brown cotton pants and a lilac button shirt to cover his shorts and tank top. The craftsmanship that went into building the temple is incredible and totally worth the $15/person entry fee. During our few days in Bangkok, we also did a bit of shopping and discovered the many many malls and million of street vendors of the city.

Similar to back home there seems to be a whole culture around going to the mall and shopping. I found it both depressing and fun at the same time.

Getting a thai massage while in Thailand was high on my list of things to do while in Bangkok and Noel and I found a place close to our hotel that offered to give both of us a massage in the same room. We had never received a Thai massage and we both cracked up when we saw each other getting twisted into pretzels. Noel almost burst in laughter when my masseuse put her two feet up against my back pushing me forward while she was pulling my arms back towards her. I thought I was going to break in half. Noel’s lady was wearing a mask over her mouth similar to the ones they use when riding their motor bikes through town. I’m not exactly sure why she wore it, but Noel jokingly said that it was like getting a massage from Darth Vader. The whole experience was a bit less relaxing than I expected, at least it gave us a good laugh.

Despite the crowded, polluted and dirty face of the city, I am glad that we spent a few days exploring Bangkok.

Our African Safari

We had planned on going on Safari to Kruger National Park, but with the recent floods they just had, we were worried that much of the game reserve would still be closed. After calling one lodge in Kruger Park, we found out that it wasn’t the case, but the lady told us that the wet weather brought a lot more mosquitos than usual and the mosquitos in this area can transmit Malaria. Since I want to avoid taking Malaria medication we kept researching possible safari locations and luckily found the Madikwe Game reserve. They have a few mosquitos, but the park in that area is Malaria free.

Madikwe is the fourth largest game reserve in South Africa. It’s massive totalling over 75,000 hectares and is home to the Big Five, which means that it has Lions, Elephants, Buffalo, Leopards and Rhinos. There are lots of camps that you can stay in at the park ranging from upscale to more rustic and somewhat affordable. We chose Mosethla Bush Camp & Eco Lodge because it had great reviews on Trip Advisor and it was really affordable in comparison to the rest of the lodges. Other pluses include it being located right in the middle of the park, it’s a family run business, and they have been in business since the park opened. Their many years of experience living with all of these wild animals sure made for some incredible stories at dinner time.

For me the beauty of this Bush Camp is that it’s raw, no electricity or running water, and at the same time very charming and upscale in it’s service and overall experience. For about $350 a night Noel and I got a really cute little open air cabin, 3 great meals and two 3 hour game drives each day (one in the morning and one in the evening). Oh and I forgot to mention that except for a really high electric fence to keep out the elephants, the whole camp is totally open allowing all of the wild animals to roam freely through the camp! For peace of mind they fenced the toilet and shower area, which made me feel way safer when I heard a lion roar when I was in the shower one evening. Most nights you could hear animals wandering around outside your cabin and I often wondered why the front of the cabin was open with only a 3 foot cloth door to keep the lions out.

On our first day, Noel and I arrived at the Bush camp just in time for a great lunch and were lucky enough to be able to go on the evening drive that same day. There were only six of us, including Noel and I, who all arrived at the camp that same day. We were all so excited to go on our first drive and our excitement and great energy must have brought us some luck because we saw so many animals that day. The amount of different amazing animals that we were able to get up close to was way above all of our highest expectations. Justice was our Ranger and Guide and he was incredible. He knew the names of all the animals, including the multitude of birds, and he had answers for all of our many questions that we threw at him.

On our first drive alone, we saw elephants, giraffes, impalas, wildebeests, kudus, cheetahs and as a real treat, right before getting back to the lodge, we even saw a leopard drinking out of a nearby water hole. After our drive we then had dinner, chatted a bunch with our new friends from the camp and went to bed. Noel fell asleep within a few minutes and I was so wired and attentive to all of the wild and new sounds going on outside that I could barely sleep all night. As I laid on my bed my head was full of images of the wild animals that we had seen that afternoon. Our open aired cabin with no real door, in combination with the leopard that we had seen only a few hours ago, which we spotted only about 800 meters from our camp, made my imagination work overtime. Poor Noel, I kept waking him up to tell him that there were animals outside. I guess I should have expected that considering that we are smack in the middle of a game reserve full of wild animals. I’m not sure what I expected, but I think that I was expecting a fence to keep them out and then a front door just in case they managed to get through the fence?

Wake up call comes early in Madikwe and every morning we got up at 5:30am. We basically had time to throw on our safari gear, grab a quick coffee and a rusk and jump into the 4×4 for the first game drive of the day.

The drive is about 3 hours long with a quick coffee/ snack break in the middle.You then come back to the lodge for a proper breakfast and then you get to do your own thing until lunch, which is around 2:30pm. It would have been great to be able to go for a run in between the first drive and lunch, but since we are not the fastest runners of the jungle, we we were on strict orders to not leave the small area of the camp. To keep ourself busy Noel took some photos of all birds and things and I did a bit of yoga, read and caught up on my sleep. The evening drive starts at 4:30pm and brings you back to the camp an hour after dark at around 8:30pm, just in time for dinner. Coming back to the camp at night was one of my favourite things because the staff lights up the entire area using oil lanterns. They are scattered all over the camp, in the rooms and around the dinner table making for a most romantic and exotic setting.

I have to say that I had some reservations when I read about the shared bathrooms and the fact that you have to heat and carry your own water if you want to take a shower, but after having experienced it first hand, I can say that it was part of what made the camp so great. Let me explain how the shower works. There is no running water so you fill a bucket from a portable water tank. Then you empty about half of your bucket into a something called a Donkey Boiler which instantly transforms it into boiling hot water that pours into another bucket. You then mix the hot water with your left over cool water so that it’s your desired temperature. The donkey boiler looks like a homemade wood stove elevated from the ground allowing you to make a little fire underneath. The water must travel through a lot of mini conduits to make it so hot in the matter of seconds. It actually looks like something my dad could easily weld in his garage. Perhaps one day when we have our off the grid house I will have him make us one. I loved the rustic feel of the camp and even the whole experience of taking a shower. It was neat to see how much water you are using and the fact that you are carrying your own water to the shower makes you a lot more conscious of your consumption.

The whole experience was incredible and the best part in my opinion was to see the wild dogs of Africa. They are one of the most endangered species in Africa and are just a fascinating creature to watch. One day we saw 2 seperate packs, one of about 8 skinny dogs running around on the hunt for something to eat, and second was a pack of 22 dogs, adults and puppies. This pack was hanging out by a drinking hole with their bellies so fat from a recent kill that they could barely move. Only a few of the younger ones were wrestling and playing around. I could have watched them for hours.

After a couple of days, more people joined us and the camp was at capacity with 18 guests. It’s so great to see people’s expression when you are only a couple of meters from a pride of huge lions. Through these experiences we met some amazing people, and for me it was a great bonding experience.

This was truly the experience of a lifetime and I can’t wait to return.

Top 5 Things to do in Cape Town and the surrounding area

I have to admit that Facebook is a powerful way to connect with people and exchange information. A quick post about coming to South Africa and two of my friends (along with some of Noel’s as well) rose to the occasion to give amazing advice on things to do and places to see. Maya and Ali thank you so much for all the great tips that allowed us to quickly narrow it down to the best spots. Here were the highlights:

1) Camps Bay and Llandudno Beach

The beaches alone are the reason why I could see myself living in Cape Town. White sand paired with the blue and turquoise water make for a calming scenery. The beaches and the water is so tropical looking that you would never imagine that the water is absolutely freezing! Nevertheless, Clifton Beach is the best place to hang out, read a book, sunbathe and run for a quick dip in the ocean when it gets too hot. The beach is right across the street from a strip of bars, restaurants and hotels that definitely have a chic vibe and complements this upscale area.

Further down the road is Llandudno Beach that is more isolated as you have to drive through a residential neighborhoud to access it. It is equally as beautiful as Camps Bay beaches and it seems to have better surfing. We hung out there for a little while. Even though we didn’t go in ourselves, we had fun looking at the many surfers battling for the little close out waves.

2) Harbour Bay Market (Hout Bay)

The Harbour Bay market in Hout Bay is open every weekend from Friday 5pm to Sunday 4pm. This little market is quite well organized and takes place inside an old authentic fish factory. There, you will find lots of vendors of clothes, art, jewelry, decorations, etc. In my opinion, the best part is the food section. It’s a bit farmers market inspired with a modern feel. It is a great place where people meet, socialize, eat delicious food and enjoy a glass of wine while acoustic bands are playing. I would highly recommend to check it out.

3) Southern Cape

A day drive down the Southern Cape is definitely not long enough to experience the beauty and enjoy everything it has to offer. First of all, the drive itself is gorgeous and gives you the feeling you are in a movie driving along cliffs and beaches somewhere in the Mediterranean. Well, in the movie I played in my mind, we were in a zippy old fashion convertible…and in real life our rented Toyota Corrolla still gave us this feeling of freedom without the style! We stopped at a view point where you can see Long Beach from above and it’s rugged coast line. We then stopped at Boulder Beach to see the Penguins and then kept driving down to the Cape of Good Hope where you can do a short hike to a Lighthouse that allows you to see the ocean as far of the eyes can see! The Cape of Good Hope is also a National Park where you can drive around freely and see wild life. We were lucky enough to see tons of Baboons and a heard of Zebras.

4) Long Street

Long Street is located in the Centre of Cape Town and offers great shopping and cool cafes. Having been on the road for over two months, Long Street felt a bit like back home and gave us a chance to pick up a few cool souvenirs. My favourite purchase is a pillow cover with a drawing of a lady talking on the phone while leaning on a leopard in a sexy lounging outfit. It will make for a good souvenir in our Vancouver apartment. We also found a great little cafe called Lola’s where they serve delicious fresh juices, smoothies, salads and other tasty and healthy dishes. Noel and I are both creatures of habits so needless to say that we went back a couple of times.

5) Table mountain

The first time we attempted to hike table mountain, the wind was so strong that you could almost lean into in and not fall forward. The Cable car was closed which would have meant hiking up and then down which was no big deal, but somehow, I started feeling really scared of this wind pushing us around and making it difficult to move forward. We made the decision to turn around and come back another day which made me feel defeated in a way and at the same time, I am a strong believer that it’s best to listened to your instincts. We came back on a sunny day and hiked up the super steep path all the way to the top. We kept a good pace all the way, stopping only a few times to catch our breath and wow, what great cardio exercise it was. On a clear day, the view at the top is stunning and totally worth the effort.