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Visiting Vancouver and Seattle

I have been putting off writing this post for ages and actually, I'm glad I did. By delaying it, I get another chance to go through all my notes, scribbles and pictures that I put together while I was there and relive the funny little moments I would completely forget if I didn't write them all down somewhere.

Despite being a wee bit sad about turning 30 this year, I was incredibly lucky; AJ and my family all clubbed together to give me enough money to buy a return flight to Canada, so I could visit one of my best friends who moved there last year with her boyfriend.

I usually handle long haul flights fairly well, probably something to do with two solo trips to New Zealand (hello 37 hours of travelling). So practised am I these days that I didn't even suffer with jet lag once I arrived. I was recently lucky enough to be included in Travelbag's recent article with lots of tips on handling long haul flights from bloggers - you can take a peek here - its full of good ways to deal with long haul flights, wherever you're going! Even with no jet lag, by the time I arrived and got through the airport there was just enough time to have amazing sushi from a local restaurant, have a quick catch up and get an early night!

The next few days in Vancouver were really relaxed; we pottered around doing bits and bobs including walking around the sea wall to Stanley Park, checking out the waterfront, Gastown, aimlessly wandering around the art gallery, visiting Bowen island and walking the Killarney lake trail, all in beautiful sunshine. We had a barbecue, I ate all sorts of yummy food, including the infamous double big mac, pancakes and bacon with maple syrup, poutine, zugo juice, sushi, Wendy's, Denny's, the list goes on!






Laura had even planned for the two of us to take a mini road trip to Seattle - so I got to tick two places off of my list in one! I've never been to Canada or the States before so to be able to do (a very small part of) both in one trip was amazing. Seattle is around a 2 hour drive from Vancouver and we booked into a hostel to keep the cost down. 

Seattle is definitely the city of coffee shops and bars! There is a brilliant and relaxed cafe culture and you can even go and visit the first ever Starbucks! We walked around Pikes Place Market sampling and smelling an amazing range of foods and stopped to watch the famous fish market. Its difficult to describe.. but involves lots of harmonised singing and throwing fish..! We visited the sculpture park, fed the seagulls (apparently this is the done thing) and on the second day, we took the bus to Alki beach and spent the day reading our books in the sun, looking back on Seattle. Absolute bliss. Until we got sunburned.. but the rest was bliss. 






We had dinner at a vegan fast food chain, Veggie Grill, which was a m a z i n g! Everything on the menu is vegan and the refillable drinks are a variety of iced teas. We had vegan chik'n buffalo wings, beyond meat beef burgers and lots of fries! In fact, it was so good, we went back there the second night! I would never usually eat at the same place twice when visiting somewhere new, but I just had to have those buffalo wings in my life! On the way home from Seattle I got to experience my first ever Walmart visited Steveston and went to the loveliest mini donut shop.




After getting back from Seattle and back into Canada, we spent a few days visiting Jericho beach, eating my way around Granville Island (crepes and sushi in one sitting.. I have eclectic taste), playing in the arcades, traipsing up Main Street and going to a thrift store; where I picked up a lovely big old Vancouver jumper, tried a Nanaimo bar, met some very odd people on the bus, including an "author" and topped off the last of our spare time with an absolutely incredible sunset harbour cruise around Vancouver. Laura arranged it for us and it was really amazing. We had dinner on board and the boat went all the way round Vancouver harbour, coming back under Lionsgate bridge just in time for the sun to set behind us. The Captain even let Laura and I drive the boat!! Bad idea.








We topped off the weekend with a night of camping in Squamish with friends, where I tried my first ever s'mores, spent the night worrying about bears coming into the tent to eat me and ate barbecued burgers and drank beers. The following morning, after breakfast of croissants and fresh melon, we went on the sea to sky gondola which had incredible views of the mountains and then spent some time at Alice Lake sunning ourselves by the beach and walking around the lake, before I put my sunburned bum (literally) on the plane to fly home.












I had such an amazing time and honestly, Canadians are some of the nicest people I have ever met! Everyone was super friendly, generous and I completely fell in love with the way of life. I will 100% be going back again at some point - I'd love to go in winter to go skiing and snowboarding.

Has anyone else visited Vancouver? Have you got any recommendations for my next trip?

A Weekend Diary - And my first blogger meet!

The weekend just gone was my first back after my trip to Canada and so, of course, I jam packed lots of things into it - even though what I probably should have done is just stay at home and study!

A weekend in Brno

I have to be completely honest before launching into this post. I didn't really know where Brno was before I decided to book flights. I had vaguely heard of it and I saw another blogger write about it ages ago, but it didn't really stick in my mind.

Last year, for my birthday, my mum gave me the genius birthday present of Ryanair gift vouchers for my birthday present. I wanted to travel more but finding money for airfare when you're buying and renovating a house isn't exactly easy.

Last year, Rosie and I went to Copenhagen for a random weekend of pottering around and we decided to do the same thing again his year. I could write a whole separate post about finding cheap flights and destinations, but lets just say that we settled on Brno having read into a bit more. It attracted us because the flights were cheap (around thirty pounds each, return) and I read some bits and bobs about it being overall fairly cheap, and a good alternative to visiting Prague. We booked a little apartment on Air bnb with a cute little mezzanine floor and we were ready to go!

Writing full on travel guides is not my thing, but I thought I'd share some of the highlights instead. I keep describing Brno as "Prague, before Prague became Prague". Before Prague became overrun with stag do's and was actually just a beautiful city and a value for money city break destination - that's Brno.



All the people we encountered were friendly, the food was amazing and there are so many beautiful buildings all throughout the city. It was small enough that we didn't need to use any public transport and could walk to everything we wanted to do. The airport was around a fiver in an uber (yep.. we caved and used uber.. but only to get back to the airport) and yes, it was super cheap.

Eating and drinking:

Super Panda Circus
A super cool speakeasy bar near the Castle. I wont give away all the details, but think lush leather couches,  cocktails made to order (based on your mood) and an incredible looking bar.

Skog Urban Hub
Pastries, lush decor and the most amazing 70% dark hot chocolate. Industrial style, exposed wood, and the smell of fresh coffee.




 Chimney cake

Just look at it. Buy it from a hatch on the street and enjoy.



Cattani

Yes, OK, a pasta restaurant features on my highlights and yes I am food obsessed. but it was great. trust me. So much so that Rosie and I genuinely considered ordering a second main course, and even thought about going back there the following day. Its a super small restaurant and they like to keep things simple. The inside isn't ostentatious and neither is the menu. Pick a type of pasta, pick a sauce, eat. Its so so good. For a pasta serving and large glass of wine it came to around a fiver, and it was really tasty!


Things to do/visit:

The Ossuary of St James Church (Kostnice u sv. Jakuba)
Not everyone's cup of tea, but something I really wanted to check out. The ossuary is the second largest in Europe and was set up as a burial exchange system; after 10-12 years bodies in the church cemetery were exhumed and placed in charnel houses, and new bodies took their place in the graves. There's an eerie, but peaceful feeling walking around. You're allowed to take pictures, but no flash.




Spilberk Castle
Surrounded by beautiful grounds (and with a cafe!). The castle is a really great place to visit on a warm sunny day. We pottered around the grounds taking in the views and snapping away. For a small entrance fee you can also walk through the old casemates and look at some of the exhibitions.






I would really recommend visiting Brno for the weekend - it is a great little getaway and you can do it to suit even small budget. Has anyone else been to Brno or planning a trip there?