Kelowna – Part 2 of 3

Last week Julie and I embarked on a week long holiday to Kelowna for some relaxation, lots of food, wine tours, cider tastings, and to visit my friend Krystylyn. We left on Saturday September 5th and went home on Saturday September 12th. Let’s continue with this series.

Tuesday September 8th 2020

Tuesday was our wine tour day with Uncorked. We were picked up at 9:00am by our lovely driver Herb. Herb has been with the company for 11 years now, and spent the majority of his working life as an RCMP Crime Scene Investigator. He worked on many high profile cases.

First stop on our tour was Summer Hill Pyramid Winery, a classic favourite of Julie and I’s. We ended up purchasing a few bottles of wine here. This is my third time coming here. I even attended a wedding here in 2014. The winery was established in 1986 by the Cipes family, and is the most visited winery in British Columbia. A unique feature of the winery is the pyramid cellar that ages the wine. The pyramid was built in 1997 and is an 8% replica of the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Rumour has it numerous taste comparisons of the same wine, bottled on the same day, and served at the same temperature (some in the pyramid, some outside) resulted in the majority preferring the wine aged in the cellar.

Second stop on our tour was Nagging Doubt, a small artisanal winery owned and operated by Rob Westbury. His small winery was a very pleasant surprise and he had some of the nicest wine I have ever tasted in Kelowna. We ended up purchasing a bottle of their 2015 “The Pull”, and a 2016 “The Leap”, but strong red wines.

Third stop was Priest Creek Family Estate Winery, Kelowna’s newest winery, that just opened up a few weeks ago. It is quite remarkable that they opened during the middle of a pandemic, but they are doing quite well, and sold out of many of their wines already. They used some creative marketing techniques such as social media, flyers, pamphlets, etc. to get their name out there. The vineyard was purchased by Darren and Jane Sawin in 2015. Originally they sold their grapes to BC Fruit, but realized that wasn’t going to pay the bills. With some consultation of some friends they decided to start their own winery on their vineyard and bottle their own grapes. The wines here are super light and delicate, but are delicious.

It was then time for lunch. We ended up stopping at McCulloch Station Pub, where I had a delicious Ruben sandwich, deep fried pickles and beer.

The fourth stop was Vibrant Vines. The winery was established in 2010 by Wyn Lewis. You’re handed a pair of 3D glasses when you start your tour and can enjoy all the beautiful 3D artwork throughout the building, and on the bottles of wine. While we enjoyed the beautiful artwork, we can’t say we enjoyed the wine very much. We ended up skipping wine purchases here.

The fifth stop was Tantalus, which is both a favourite of ours. Tantalus was established in 2004 by Eric Savics. Eric purchased the vineyard from Pioneer Vineyards, who planted the first grapes in 1927 when it was under the reins of local horticulturist JW Hughes. The old vine plantings; 1978 Riesling and 1985 Pinot Noir & Chardonnay’s became the backbone of the vineyard. The other grapes were removed and three new types of grapes were planted in 2005.

After the wine tour Herb allowed up to stop at the liquor store so I could pick up some IPA beers, before dropping us off back at our condo. The rest of the evening was spent playing board games, reading, and down by the dock.

Wednesday September 9th 2020

Wednesday morning we spent relaxing by the beach. I read some of my book called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”, which I loaned from Julie. It’s a really informative book that puts things into perspective.

In the afternoon Julie and I visited Wards Cidery and Vineyard, and Kitsch Wines quickly before meeting up with Krystylyn for dinner. At Wards we ended up purchasing a few bottles and cans of cider from Wards, including my personal favourite which was hibiscus tea infused cider.

Wards Cidery has been around since 1922 and is in it’s 5th generation of family ownership. Within the last 10 years they also started dabbling in wines, but I honestly didn’t like their wines. We ended up purchasing some Hibiscus infused Cider, and two other types of hard cider from them.

Kitsch Wines is owned by founders Ria and Trent Kitsch, who also launched SAXX Underwear in 2006. The couple planted a vineyard in 2010. The family roots actually stems back to 1910, when Kelowna was still in its infancy, four generations ago. We liked some of the wines there and ended up purchasing a 2016 Pinot Noir.

After visiting Wards & Kitsch we met up with Krystylyn at her condo and walked over to this hole in the wall restaurant called Mad Mango for some Malaysian Laksa. This was my first time having Laksa, as well as Julie, and we both agreed that it was fantastic. We will definitely be trying to make Laksa in the coming weeks, as we are big foodies.

After having dinner we walked back to Krystylyn’s condo and said bye for the evening. We will meet her again, one more time on the last day before we head home.

We quickly stopped by Red Bird Brewery for a six-pack of IPA for myself and then head back to the condo. In the evening we hung out by the dock and played some more Catan. Honestly Julie has been kicking my butt this week at Catan, and I can’t catch a break. While at the dock we meet another wonderful couple named Evan and Kayla and ended up chatting for about and hour.

Be sure to check back soon for part 3 of 3 in my Kelowna series.

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Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens & Writing On Stone Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I traveled South to visit the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens in Lethbridge, as well as Writing on Stone Provincial Park. We set off on our journey at 9:00am. Lethbridge is only a 2 hour drive away along Highway 2. It’s typically a fairly boring drive, and this was no exception. There’s a few weeks out of the year where I find it pleasant to drive, and that’s the first few weeks of August when the canola fields are in full bloom before harvesting. If you go during the right time of year it looks as beautiful as shown below.

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When we arrived in Lethbridge we stopped at the Firestone Restaurant & Bar at the Coast Hotel. I had the Sonoma Chicken Sandwich and Julie had the Chicken Burger. After lunch we drove to the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens.

The Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens overlook Henderson Lake. They were designed by Dr. Masami Sugimoto and Dr. Tadashi Kubo, both from Osaka, Japan. The pavilion, shelter, bridges, and gates were built in Kyoto, Japan by five artisans, who eventually re-assembled them in the garden. It was opened on July 14th 1967. The gardens took 21 months to construct. While we were there there was a Taiko percussion instrument demonstration, which was fantastic!

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After visiting the Nikka Yuko Japanese Gardens we drove about 1.5 hours to Writing On Stone Provincial Park. The last time I went to this park was 6 years ago. We completed a small hike / walk that took about an hour to complete. Writing On Stone became an official UNESCO World Heritage Site last year, and is a very sacred park to the Blackfoot Tribe. The beautiful, yet small, park has a tremendous amount of sandstone outcrops, which were deposited along the edge of a large inland sea from about 84 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous epoch.

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After visiting Writing On Stone we started the long 3.5 hour drive back to Calgary, with a quick stop in Lethbridge for dinner at Chopped Leaf.

Stay tuned for my next blog, which is the next installment in my hiking series; Iceberg Lake!

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Jasper & Wells Gray Provincial Park

Last weekend Julie and I took a long 1900km roundtrip road trip to Jasper and Wells gray Provincial Park. We used my new trusty steed; 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME. Total fuel cost on the trip was $60 because I was able to take advantage of multiple free charges during our trip, including at our hotels, and BC Info Centre’s.

We left Calgary on Friday July 31st 2020 at 4pm, picked up some Subway sandwiches and headed straight towards Jasper. The drive took just over 5 hours and we ended up staying at the Tonquin Inn for $200 for the night, which is quite acceptable for being a hot spot. The place was well equipped with a queen bed, separate living room, kitchen, and bathrooms.

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The next morning we got breakfast at Coco’s Cafe. We both had coffee and a Montreal style bagel (Julie had gluten free) with Salmon and cream cheese. After we ate our food we drove to Overlander Falls, about an hour away.

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Overlander Falls was a quick 30 minute return walk to the beautiful high-volume, but low height waterfalls. We were the only people there so I was able to take the time to capture some video and long exposure photographs.

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After visiting Overlander Falls we stopped in at the Mt. Robson Information Centre, which was only a 5 minute drive away. There we received some information booklets on Wells Gray Provincial Park, and the Berg Lake hike, which I plan on doing sometime this year. While we were there I took advantage of the free Level 2 EV charging there and was able to charge my PRIME about 50%.

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Continuing along we drove to Clearwater, BC, with a brief stop in Blue River for $15 worth of fuel, as it was a good price. We stopped at Clearwater to quickly take a look at which hikes we should visit on the first day. First stop was Spahats Falls. The walk / “hike” to Spahats Falls is an easy 3.1 km with 91 metres of elevation difference. The views are stunning! This is where I realized Julie was a bit afraid of heights, but she did really well all things considered.

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Second stop was Dawson Falls. The walk / “hike” to Dawson Falls is an easy 1.4 km with 38 metres of elevation difference. The falls are very wide, but only about 15 metres tall.

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Third stop was Helmcken Falls. The walk / “hike” to Helmcken Falls in an easy 1.0 km hike with 60 metres of elevation difference. The falls are a stunning 141 metres tall and are the fourth highest waterfall in Canada. While we were there we saw a cute young couple getting married, which we saw later on in the evening when we were eating, but more on that later.

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Fourth stop was Osprey Falls, about a 30 minute drive away, but it was very underwhelming so we didn’t take any photos. It was 6pm so we decided to head back to our accommodation for the night; a cute bungalow at the Wells Gray KOA Journey Campground.

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After checking in and plugging in my car to recharge we walked over to a wonderful restaurant called Hop N Hog, where I had some delicious brisket and Julie had some delicious Pulled Pork. While we were there we learned of some nasty false reviews from a woman on Google and Travelocity against the owner. I suspect it was a date that went bad. This saddens me because these small “ma and pa” style restaurants rely on reviews from people like you and I. I left a super positive review because I thought the food and service was incredible.

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The next day Julie and I woke up around 7am, got ready and headed to the Painted Turtle Restaurant, which was just a few kilometres away. There I had an Eggs Benedict and Julie had a traditional breakfast, minus eggs, since she’s allergic to eggs. The restaurant overlooked a gorgeous lake which had a variety of turtles. The restaurant was on the same property as a campground, but the lack of trees at the campground would make me reluctant to stay there.

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After breakfast we drove to our first hike of the day; Moul Falls. Moul Falls is a 5.5 km return hike with 200 metres of elevation differential. At the end of the hike you decent via a steep trail / staircase to the bottom of the waterfall, where you can walk behind the waterfall. I decided the venture behind the waterfall, but Julie stayed behind because of a previous knee injury.

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After hiking Moul Falls we drove to Triple Decker Falls. The hike is only 0.8 km, and 52 metres of elevation differential, but don’t let that fool you, because it’s difficult. When you start the hike you’re presented with some donated hiking poles from “Y2C”; Youth to Christ, that you can borrow. Julie and I both took two as she has her prior knee injury, and I didn’t want to fall. Halfway through the hike I told Julie to stay behind, and I went to the bottom to complete the hike. The waterfall is beautiful, but I’m glad that Julie stayed behind as the last 1/4 of the hike was very technical and would have probably resulted in further injury to her knee.

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After completing the two hikes we drove back to Jasper and checked into our accommodation for the night; the Jasper Inn. Our room had a queen sized bed, a nice bathroom, a kitchen, and separate living room. After checking in we decided to walk to Jasper Pizza Place for dinner. Sadly they were out of gluten free crust so Julie had gluten free pasta, while I enjoyed a delicious glutenous pizza.

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After dinner we returned to our hotel where we watched a movie called Extraction. After watching Extraction we went to bed.

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The next morning we woke up around 8am and drove to the Jasper Fairmont where we had breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict, and Julie had the traditional breakfast, minus eggs, due to her allergies.

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After breakfast we started the drive back to Calgary with a couple of stops; Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Athabasca Glacier.

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Bragg Creek Getaway & Black Prince Cirque Hike

It’s been quite some time since both of us have taken a vacation so last weekend Julie & I decided to getaway from the city. Julie found a beautiful place to stay on Airbnb located near Bragg Creek. Our lovely hosts Lise and Alex were waiting for us on their large wrap-around balcony that included a large firepit. Lise, is an construction lawyer, and Alex is a retired tour guide who used to live in Ontario.

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Located at the top of their home is a massive penthouse suite, which is where we were staying, but more on that later.  Lise and Alex showed us around the house before showing us to our penthouse suite. The house is adorned in lovely artwork, as well as beautiful antique and modern wood and leather furniture. I’m a huge fan of mid-century modern and modern, and the house was a beautiful mix of mid-century modern and modern. The main centerpiece in the house is the fireplace, which was constructed from over 8500 hand laid bricks that came from an old warehouse in Chicago.

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Inside the suite was a comfortable king-sized bed, a large deep soaker tub, a rainfall shower, his-and-hers sinks, a minibar fridge, and a French press to make tea or coffee. Inside the mini-bar fridge were some drinks, some fresh fruit, yoghurt, and a lovely bottle of champagne, which was a wonderful surprise. The suite gives a 270 degree view of the luscious trees below. Close to the penthouse suite, down just a few steps, is a large balcony with a table and two chairs, where we spent the evenings watching the beautiful sunsets.

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After getting settled in Julie made us a beautiful Charcuterie board with a bunch of cheese, meats, crackers, fruits, and vegetables. We sat on the balcony and ate it while enjoying the beautiful view.

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Later on in the evening we watched a hilarious show on Netflix called Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father. It is a travel documentary where Jack Whitehall travels with his father, Michael Whitehall. His father, is a grumpy old British guy, and is always complaining about things, but in a hilarious fashion.

The next day we woke up at around 7am. I made some coffee for us and we enjoyed it in bed while talking until it was time to go downstairs for breakfast. Lise and Alex are amazing cooks and they had prepared us some stuffed tomatoes filled with tiny wild mushrooms, alongside some toast, bacon and seasoned potatoes.

After enjoying our delicious breakfast we drove into Kananaskis to hike Black Prince Cirque, which is a 4.8 km roundtrip hike to the beautiful Warspite Lake with a backdrop of the towering Mount Black Prince and Hermione Peak. The hike has a total of 178 metres of elevation gain and can be done in as little as an hour. We took our time because of Julie’s knee, taking approximately 1.75 hours.

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On the way back we decided to stop at Foothills Creamery in Bragg Creek to get some ice cream. Julie got black licorice and root beer float flavoured ice cream in a cup, while I got a waffle cone filled with tiger flavour. We then drove back to the house to relax for a bit before heading out to dinner at The Italian Farmhouse in Bragg Creek. Julie had gluten free seafood linguine with white wine sauce, served with a glass of red wine. I had spaghetti carbonara, served with a few pints of lager. We also shared so wild boar meatballs.

After dinner we drove back to the house and relaxed in our room for a bit. When Lise and Alex came home we went downstairs to great them and meet their beautiful Weimaraner dogs named Otto and Ester. Otto is a huge flirt and is quick to open up, while Ester is a bit more shy but she eventually opens up.

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We spent the evening watching the sunset before enjoying the relaxing deep soaker tub and watching more of Jack Whitehall show. The next morning we woke up at 8am and enjoyed coffee in bed before venturing downstairs to yet another amazing meal. This time it was smoked salmon and cheese on toast; it was to die for!

After breakfast we played some board games and card games before it was time to checkout. We would both gladly stay here again in a heartbeat and have already recommended this place to family and friends. You can book it on Airbnb here.

After checking out we drove to Elbow Falls, which we both hadn’t been to in probably over ten years. It has changed a lot since the flood of 2013. I’ve enclosed a photo of what it used to look like before the flood.

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USA – Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah – Part 2 of 2

In September 2017 my Dad and I went on a one week trip to the USA to explore the beautiful scenery that Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah have to offer. I started my blog series in 2016 but due to 2017 being such a busy year for travel I actually forgot to write about this.

2017 USA Road Trip

In Part 1 of 2 we left off with staying the night on Day 3 in Albuquerque after visiting the Puye Cliff Dwellings. This is Part 2 of 2 of this series. Enjoy!

On the 4th day we continued driving north towards the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge with a stop at the Classical Gas Museum in Embudo, New Mexico. The museum is the work of a man named Johnnie Meier, a gentleman who after retiring from the nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory started to collect car memorabilia. His collection is the efforts of over 25 years of hard work.

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After stopping at the Classical Gas Museum we continued north to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. The 390 metre (1280 foot) long steel deck arch bridge was designed by architect Charles Reed, and was built in 1965. It is the 10th highest bridge in the USA, sitting roughly 180 metres (600 feet) above the Rio Grande River. The bride won the award of being the “Most Beautiful Steel Bridge” in the “Long Span” category in 1966 by the American Institute of Steel Construction. In 1997 it was added to the 1997 National Register of Historic Place (NRHP). It received a relatively in-expensive $2.4 million repair and facelift in 2012, which included structural steelwork, a new concrete deck surface, new sidewalks, ramps, curbs and gutters. When we were there we also met a couple who were riding around on a completely custom V8 trike that they had built.

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After visiting the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge we continued along our journey to our next stop just a few minutes away called Earthship Biotecture. Michael Reynolds is the founder and creator of the concept. He came to Taos after graduation architectural school in 1969. He was inspired by the problem of trash, pollution and the lack of affordable housing so he sought out a solution to create affordable housing that was sustainable. These homes are called Earthships. His home designs can be seen all over North America, including close to home here in my province of Alberta. Dad and I purchased a few books and I ended up reading them along the road trip. They were extremely informative and you can easily create an Earthship, even for use in a colder climate such as Alberta, with a lot of elbow grease.

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After visiting Earthship Biotecture it was time to find some accommodation. We ended up heading back to Flagstaff, Arizona for the night. Accommodation was at the Couryard by Marriott for $120 CDN. We went back to Flagstaff Brewing Company for dinner and more beers.

The next day we woke up early and we drove to Shiprock, New Mexico before heading to the Four Corners Mounment. Shiprock, also known by the Navajo as “the rick with wings” is a monadnock rising 483 metres (1583 feet) above the desert. It’s peak is 2188 metres (7177 feet) above sea level.

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The Four Corners Monument marks the quadripoint in the US where the states of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. Is the only point in the United States where four states perfectly meet. The monument  is made of granite and brass and I got a picture of myself in all four states.

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Next stop was Natural Bridges National Monument where Dad and I did some hiking. We first hiked Sipapu Bridge, which is a 2 km hike with 133 metres (436 feet) of elevation differential. Across from the bridge you can actually see the ancient structures of Horse Collar Ruin that were believed to have been built over 700 years ago!

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The next hike in Natural Bridges National Monument was Kachina Bridge, a 2.25 km hike with 140 metres (462 feet) of elevation differential. There is a lot of switchbacks and wooden stairs to get to the bottom of the valley, but the view was totally worth it!

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The final stop in Natural Bridges National Monument was Owachomo Bridge, also known as the “Little Bridge” It’s extremely slender in the middle and is also the oldest bridge in the park. The hike is only 1 km and has 60 metres (190 feet) of elevation differential. This was my favourite bridge in the park!

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It was time to find somewhere to stay for the night. We ended up staying at the Super 8 in Moab for $80 CDN. We had dinner at The Blu Pig, a blue’s themed bar with delicious smoked meat. I felt my arteries clogging as I ate my food and we drank our beer.

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The next morning we had breakfast at the Moab Diner, before driving into Canyonlands to see the Indian Hieroglyph’s and the unique rock features in the park.

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The next stop, which was my favorite park of the entire trip was Arches National Park.  When you enter into the park you see the beautiful “Courthouse Towers”!

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Our two stops were the magnificent “North Window” and equally stunning “Double Arch”.

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Next up was Panorama Point and “Delicate Arch”. Delicate Arch required 5 km of hiking with 190 metres (620 feet) of elevation differential, but it was worth it!

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The final stop for the day was Goblin Valley State Park. “The Three Sisters” great you as you enter the park.

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We decided to do “The Goblin’s Lair” hike while we were in the park. The hike is 4 km long and has about 50 metres (165 feet) of elevation differential. At the end of the hike there is a cave area you can climb into, which I decided to do, but my dad stayed back in case I got injured as it was fairly difficult climbing down into the cave.

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It was time to check into our hotel for the night. We stayed at The Snuggle Inn in Loa, Utah for $120 CDN. We had the entire hotel to ourselves. Dinner was at the wonderful restaurant that I don’t remember the name of, but a quick look on google maps shows that it no longer exists.

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The next morning we had breakfast at The Country Café. the owner was very nice and it was funny because he was mad that his son was late showing up to work and when his son did show up to work he just took money from the till and left. The food was pretty good though!

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Today we drove towards Las Vegas with a few stops along the way including Zion National Park. It was absolutely pouring rain in Zion National Park so we just got out of the car to take a few photos, before continuing on to Las Vegas.

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After arriving in Las Vegas Dad and I checked into the Luxor Hotel for the next 2 nights. Rooms were only $40 CDN per night so we both got our own room. He was starting to not feel too well so he ended up having a nap and I explored the hotel and the Las Vegas streets.

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The next day Dad and I went for breakfast at a restaurant outside of Planet Hollywood, but that restaurant no longer exists, and I can’t find the name of it online.

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After breakfast we visited The Auto Collections car museum at the LINQ Hotel, formerly the Imperial Palace. Sadly, the museum shut down at the end of 2017. I’m very fortunate to have seen this museum 3 times since 2013.2017-09-01 USA 3882017-09-01 USA 3892017-09-01 USA 3922017-09-01 USA 3942017-09-01 USA 3972017-09-01 USA 4002017-09-01 USA 4102017-09-01 USA 4112017-09-01 USA 4122017-09-01 USA 418

We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel, and even did some gambling, making a 50% profit on the $20 we initially invested. Dad still wasn’t feeling well so I decided to go to the Neon Museum by myself in the evening. The Neon Museum features signs from old casinos and other businesses from the Las Vegas area. The main feature is the fully restored lobby shell from the defunct La Concha Motel as it’s main visitor center. The Neon Museum opened on October 27th 2012.

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One the final day of our trip we went to the Carroll Shelby Museum before doing some plane spotting, and then catching our flight home. The Carroll Shelby Museum, which functions three-fold as the Headquarters, a Museum, and the actual production facility.

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An all-time past of mine is plane spotting. I have an absolute love of aviation, and my father has always taken me plane spotting since I was a very small child. Las Vegas has some prime plane spotting areas, which my Dad had researched, so we sat and watching planes for a bit, before it was time to catch our flight home.

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Be sure to check back soon when I depart on my Eastern Europe road trip in about a month!

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Belgium – Bruges

Today I travelled to the wonderful cute city of Bruges. Before we dive into that lets recap my evening from the night before… The power went out at around 11pm last night and I wasn’t sure if it was just my room, or the entire building. I was on the 5th floor, which oddly didn’t have elevator service so I had to walk down a narrow and winding staircase to the 4th floor. Unfortunately there was no emergency light and my phone wasn’t bright enough so I fell down an entire flight of stairs and messed up my shoulder. I made my way down to reception to conclude that the entire block was without power. The power eventually came back on a few hours later.

I woke up at 4:30am in immense pain and ended up talking with some friends until it was time to check out and take the train to Bruges. I ended up checking out at roughly 7:00am and walked about 1km to the nearby Brussels North train station. I purchased a ticket for roughly $20 CDN to Bruges. The train ride took about 1.25 hours and I got to enjoy the beautiful view of the countryside.

Upon arrival in Bruges it was slightly raining, but a very fine misty rain. I started to walk towards the old town center where I was greeted with a ton of amazing architecture. My first stop was St. Salvator’s Cathedral; a beautiful church originally built in the 10th century, but destroyed by a fire in 1116 and rebuilt in 1127. It has undergone numerous renovations since.

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The next stop was Church of Our Lady Bruges, a gothic style church built in 1280 with various additions made since.

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After that I decided it was time for some breakfast so I stopped in at The Old Chocolate House and had a butter and sugar waffle adjourned by a decadent white chocolate mocha with lemongrass, ginger, and various other spices. It tasted like a garden in a cup.

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After fuelling up it was time to continue exploring the city. I visited “Markt” the town square, which houses Bruges City Hall, Basicilia of the Holy Blood, and the famous Belfry Medieval Bell Tower. I ended up coming back to that later on to climb to the top, but more on that later on.

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It was roughly noon at this point in time and I was starting to get sleepy, so I made my way to my hotel; Hotel NH Brugge, which is a superb 5 star hotel which I received for free on an Agoda.com voucher for stays in previous Agoda properties. The cost of this hotel is roughly $300 CDN/night. I decided to nap for a few hours before continuing on my adventures.

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I decided to venture back to the Belfry Medieval Bell Tower to climb the nearly 400 stairs to the top. The cost was €12 ($17.50 CDN). The views at the top were absolutely stunning!

After climbing Belfry I walked across the street and picked up some chocolate bars and some boxed chocolates from Godiva to bring home to my friends.

I then walked across town to look at the old windmills along the banks of the river, with a quick stop at a grocery store to get some food.

On the way back I took a few beautiful pictures of the autumn colours along the banks of the canals.

Belgium – Brussels – Day 2 of 2

Today I woke up at 8:00am and had some coffee in my room before venturing out to explore more of the city.

First stop was Hôtel van Eetvelde, which was sadly under construction so I couldn’t get any good pictures of it. Hôtel van Eetvelde is a town house designed in 1895 by Victor Horta for Edmond van Eetvelde, the administrator of Congo Free State.

Second stop was Maison Saint-Cyr was built in 1903 to serve as a mansion for the painter Georges Saint-Cyr. The façade is about four metres wide, and is rich in finely worked ironwork that forms a set of lines, curves and geometric figures. Each balcony has a railing with different patterns.

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Third stop was Stoclet Palace, after a few quick photos of some various things along the way. Stoclet Palace was built in 1911 in the Viennese Secession style by architect Josef Hoffmann. It was built for Adophe Stoclet, a wealthy industrialist and art collector.

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Fourth stop and fifth stop was Arcades du Cinquantenaire and Autoworld. Arcades du Cinquantenaire is a triple arch in the centre of Brussels and is topped by a bronze quadriga sculpture group with a woman charioteer, representing Brabant raising the national flag. Autoworld is a substantial collection of vintage vehicles in extremely well preserved states.

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The sixth stop was the National Basilica of the Sacred Heart, a beautiful Art Deco church that was completed in 1970. Construction began in 1905 in Neo-Gothic style, but only the foundations had been completed before World War 1 broke out. Construction of the actual basilica began in 1919, with the architectural style changing to Art Deco, and was not completed until 1970.

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The seventh and eighth stops were Mini-Europe and Atomium. Mini-Europe is a miniature park that was started in 1989 and represents over 80 countries and 350 buildings. Atomium was designed and constructed for the 1958 Brussels World Expo by architect Andre and Jean Polak. It is 102 metres (335 feet) tall and has nine 18 metre (60 foot) diameter stainless steel clad spheres which are connected by escalators and stairs. 3 metre (10 foot) diameter tubes connect the spheres. The central tube had the world’s fastest elevator at the time; allowing people to reach the summit in only 23 seconds at 5 metres/second. The Atomium, was designed to last a mere six months and was slated for destruction after the 1958 World Expo, but due to its popularity it made it a major element of Brussels landscape. A weird piece of history about Atomium is that SABAM, Belgium’s society for collecting copyrights, claimed worldwide intellectual property rights on all reproduction of the image via the United States Artists Rights Society (ARS). There are numerous censored images circulating the internet, but finally in 2016 there was a bill enacted to allow pictures to be legally distributed.

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I then stopped for dinner at the same restaurant I stopped at for lunch yesterday; Tonton Garby, before heading to get a new power adapted, because I somehow forgot mine at home. After getting a power adapter I visited the Brussels Comic Strip Museum, and then went to Beer Planet and picked up a few authentic trappist monk beers that were recommended to me.

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I went back to my hotel room to edit photos and write my blog before heading out to take some night time photos of Atomium.

Belgium – Brussels – Day 1 of 2

Today was the start of another travel adventure. This adventure involves Belgium, Luxembourg and Czech Republic.

My first stop was Brussels, Belgium via Amsterdam. I boarded my KLM Airbus A330-200 flight to Amsterdam at 2:20pm. The flight departed on time at 3:10pm. Flight time was roughly 9 hours gate to gate and went quite smoothly. There was free WiFi in the flight so I ended up chatting with a few friends. The flight arrived at 7:30am the following day.

I was supposed to have a quick 50 minute layover before boarding my next flight, but it ended up being almost 2 hours due to a technical fault. The original plane (an Embraer ERJ-190) was swapped for a Boeing 737-800. Flight time was roughly 45 minutes gate to gate.

After landing in Brussels I caught the train to the inner city for €8.90 ($11.70 CDN). After arriving at Brussels Central Station I visited St. Michael and St Gudula Cathedral, a Roman Catholic church in Gothic architecture style. The Cathedral was started sometime in the 9th Century but wasn’t completed until 1519.

The next stop was the Royal Gallery of Saint Hubert, a spectacular covered alleyway built by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaer completed in 1847. The gallery includes shops auditoriums, cafes, restaurants and apartments. I decided to visit Maison Danboy, a renowned bakery chain, where I ordered some delicious lemon and ginger cookies.

Next up was the Grand Place and surrounding Grand Square. The history of the Grand Palace started in the 11th and 12th Century, when a building was built on Coudenberg hill to house the Dukes of Brabant. Over the next few centuries the building was rebuilt, extended and improved to align with the increased prestige of the Dukes of Braband and their successors. The complex was destroyed in 1731 by a large fire and was eventually rebuilt in 1775. During this time excavations of the site unearthed various remains of different parts of the original palace as well as surrounding town. The monumental vaults still remain under the square and can be visited.

Next stop was a quick stop at the Brussels Stock Exchange, a beautiful building designed by architect Léon-Pierre Suys. The building was completed on the site of a former butter market in 1873 and housed the Brussels Stock Exchange until 1996. The building has since been transformed to a museum.

I then stumbled upon the Brussels Les Halles Saint-Géry, a former covered market that was completed in 1881. The market now houses Brussels Vintage Market, which is a collection of 40 vintage and second-hand merchants and more than 20 designers.

At this point in time I was starting to get hungry so I started to seek out some food at the well renowned Tonton Garby, but more on that in a minute. On my way to Tonton Garby I stopped at a famous fountain of a young boy peeing called “Manneken Pis”. Okay now onto Tonton Garby; the best way to describe this place is it has the most delicious sandwiches being served up by one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my entire life. I was recommended this place by numerous blogs and YouTube videos, so I figured it had to be good; I was not disappointed. While I was eating my sandwich I met a wonderful couple from the Rochester area in the US. They had just recently gotten married and are travelling the world together. We chatted for a bit before going our separate ways.

Next up was a few other sights before visiting the Place Royale and Royal Palace. Place Royale, also known as the King’s Square, is a historic neoclassical square in the Royal Quarter that was completed in 1782 as part of an urban project.

The Royal Palace is situated in front of Brussles Park and was designed by multiple architects including Chislain-Joseph Henry, Charles Vander Straeten, Tilman-François Suys, Alphonse Balat, Henri Maquet, and Octave Flanneau. Construction started in 1783, but wasn’t completed until 1934 when the new facade was finally completed. The impressive facade is 50% longer thatn that of Buckingham Palace in Great Britain, but it has less than half of the square footage of Buckingham Palace.

My energy levels were starting to dwindle so I walked towards my Hotel; Hotel Retro, a cozy mid-range boutique hotel. Before checking into the hotel I checked out the beautiful Le Botanique conservatory.

Check-in was very seamless. I was placed in Room 501, a penthouse room at the top with wonderful skylights overlooking the city. I decided to take a 3 hour nap before continuing on my grand adventure.

After waking up from my nap I was feeling much refreshed and ready to do more exploring. I walked to the nearby Metro station and boarded a train to the University area where I took a bunch of pictures of some beautiful buildings; one in particular caught my eye; Villa Empain. Villa Empain was built in 1934 by swiss architect Michel Polak in the Art Deco style. As many of you may know from reading previous blog posts of mine; I’m a huge sucker for Art Deco.

It was time to get some dinner so I walked towards Flagey square, where there was a beautiful building and somewhere I wanted to eat called Frit Flagey. Unfortunately at this time is when a group of men tried to rob me, but I managed to escape through some alleyways. Never in my 38 countries of travel have I had an attempted robbery. I’m a fairly careful person but they surrounded me so quickly as I was trying to take a photo of the Art Deco style Flagey building.

I walked around for a bit and came back to Flagey square about 45 minutes lated to eat at Frit Flagey; I was not disanointed. I then obtained some beers from a local beer store called Melting Pot. The gentleman recommended me a few beers to try.

I then took a bus back to my hotel where I enjoyed my beers, edited photos, and typed up my blog.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore Brussels in further detail!

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Valley Of 5 Lakes & Bald Hills Hikes

Yesterday I completed two hikes in Jasper National Park; Valley of 5 Lakes & Bald Hills. I started my day off early at 6:30am by waking up and making a nutritious breakfast omelet and coffee before setting off on a 5 hour drive towards Jasper.

First stop was Valley of 5 Lakes, a short 4.5km hike with a mere 154 metres of elevation gain. The hike was amazing; it started through a moderate density forest and opened up into a meadow before going back into a forest with a view of five beautiful turquoise and emerald coloured lakes. The hike took roughly an hour to complete and was completely worth the visit.

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It was nearly lunch so it was time to head into Jasper. I stopped at my favorite place; Jasper Brewing Company and had a cheddar burger with poutine, and a pint of their Rockhopper IPA, which is super tasty.

After lunch I drove to Maligne Lake, where I started on the trailhead to Bald Hills. It was a light misty rain when I started the hike, but over the course of the hike it started to rain more and more. About 1/3 of the way through the hike I met a wonderful woman named Susan, and her husband Steve. They had one of their daughters, and daughters friend with them. We spent the rest of the hike together, which made for a nice time. One of the kids made a hilarious comment when we were talking about religion. She said “Is a Protestant also a prostitute; we all burst out laughing! By the end of the hike we were all soaked. The hike was 13.2km with 701 metres of elevation gain; I definitely felt it in my quads towards the end.

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After the hike I drove back into Jasper to fill up my Lexus with fuel, and get some coffee from Tim Horton’s before heading back to Calgary. I finally made it home around 10:30pm.

Willcox Pass Hike

A few weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to complete the Willcox Pass hike with my friend Ashley. We set off early in the morning with a quick stop at McDonald’s to fuel our bodies with coffee before continuing the 3.5 hour drive to the Willcox Pass trailhead.

Sticker time on the hike is about 3 hours but we took closer to 4 because we wanted to take our time and we ran into some people and got chatting. The hike is 9.5km return with 522m of elevation gain. At the end of the trail you are greeted with a beautiful view of Athabasca Glacier (aka Columbia Icefields)

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After our hike we decided to go for some Montreal Smoked Meat poutine in Canmore at 514 Poutine, which is owned by a group of friends from Montreal. The clientele was mostly French speaking so we knew it was a good place. After our delicious dinner we drove back to Calgary. It was a 13 hour day all-in-all but an amazing one!

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