Sunday Seven – Best Beaches for Naps!

I love me a good nap. Curling up under a blanket, particularly in the kind of weather we’re having right now, is heaven. But napping on a beach is pure joy.

So to combat the chilly temperatures and all the snow I shovelled this morning, here’s seven of my favourite beaches – napping edition!

7. Manitou Beach, Centre Island, Toronto
Surprise! I picked a beach in Toronto! While I would never actually wade into Lake Ontario, I like this beach for sitting and snoozing because it faces south and is away from the throngs of families and frisbee throwers. Just go on a day when it’s not too humid – otherwise the lake gets a tad stinky.

6. Carmel-by-the-Sea Beach, Carmel, California

White sand, rolling dunes and the smell of money. Carmel is a classy place, and the beach reflects that. Apart from pesky squirrels attempting to steal your lunch, this is a great spot for a long afternoon nap. Pack some oversized shades to blend in with the wealthy types.

5. Kaikoura Beach, Kaikoura, New Zealand
Pay a visit to this beach and you’ll quickly discover why there are so many campervans taking up residence in the parking lot. With mountains providing a backdrop and crystal clear waters, Kaikoura Beach is a great spot to pack a picnic (perhaps with some local wine) and catch some rays along with your zzz’s.

4. La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego, California
San Diego is a goldmine for good beaches. Some are pretty family-oriented, but they all offer great views and toasty sand to stretch out on. A nice spot to sip a little wine, read some tabloids and enjoy life. Just don’t wander too far – a popular nude beach awaits!

3. Waipi’o Valley Beach, Hawaii
Perhaps it was due to exhaustion from the intense hike down into the Valley (or the anticipation of the even crueller hike back out), but sprawling out on a secluded black sand beach was pretty fantastic. Getting back up, not so much. Bring a blanket, lots of snacks, and a good book. This one’s worth camping out at for a few solid hours.

2. Chesterman Beach, Tofino, British Columbia
A close runner-up, Chesterman Beach is absolutely gorgeous. Great for a variety of activities including surfing and picnics, it’s also fantastic for a good nap! The sand is soft and the beach is enormous, which means lots of space for you to spread out away from families or large groups. Watch out for the tide!

1. Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia

Australia is full of gorgeous people. It should come as no surprise that its beaches would also be fairly easy on the eyes. While I had some good naps at Manly, Bondi had the SOFTEST sand ever. I essentially dug myself a little sand bed, and camped out for much of the day with a lunch, some beer and a good book (and a big ass hat). With warm breezes, plenty of space to sprawl out, and the sweet sound of waves crashing, Bondi is the perfect napping beach in my opinion.

So, what do you think? Any beaches I need to pack a blanket for? Leave a comment below!

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Death of My Youth

Or, Tops (and a few Flops) of 16 Weeks of Travel

I’ve been asked what my favourite place was from my trip, and it’s a hard question to answer because there are so many! So when I started giving this question some more thought, I started to ugly cry a bit over it, because the realization that the trip was over also led to a more disturbing thought – my youth was also over!

But then I remembered that I look like I’m about 10 years younger than I actually am, so I still have my fake-youth to hang on to and exploit. And hopefully I’ll travel again someday (soon) and continue to put off the responsibilities that society (and by that, I mean women’s magazines which are clearly authoritative on the subject) tells me that I should be hankering for. Suck it, society, I’m not ready to fully abandon my youth just yet!

So yes, back to that question – I can’t pinpoint one specific place as my favourite. I pretty openly bashed Australia but the truth is, I had some great experiences. And while I was horribly ill in Laos, I still loved the country. So every place holds special memories for me that are somewhat hard to explain, but they were all pieces in my mad-dash puzzle that spread across three continents in four months.

And so, in no particular order, here are some of those pieces:

Continue reading “Death of My Youth”

Hits and Misses – Australia and New Zealand

I’m currently sitting waiting for my flight to Bangkok in the Kuala Lumpur airport. Surprisingly similar to Pearson in appearance, and everything is closed. Which is probably a good thing for my bank account.

At any rate, after a rough last day in Australia (pouring rain, spending even more money due to buying a ticket for a train that wasn’t running – which is a story that one day I may share, but let’s say it ended with me sitting on the floor in the middle of a crowded train station sobbing) and a sleepless red eye flight, I thought what better thing to do than look back on some highlights and lowlights of my South Pacific adventures!

And so, I give to you…

THE HITS

Best Hostel – For overall funkiness and vibe, the Albatross in Kaikoura, NZ. For cleanliness and best cat, Central Backpackers in Dunedin, NZ. For best food available at a hostel, the Arts Factory in Byron Bay, Australia. I will miss the banana pancakes.

Best Eats – Dunedin. Every meal I had was equally as delicious, and it’s the only place I’ve found oatmeal. And I love me a good oatmeal.

Best Freebies – CBD trolley in Melbourne and the walking tour maps at the visitor’s centre.

Best Experience for the Money – Tongariro Crossing, NZ. Who’d have thunk that paying to torture yourself up and down a mountain pass would actually be worthwhile? And any of the Sydney Harbour Ferries.

Most Pleasant Surprise – The value of the Canadian dollar in New Zealand. Canada for the win!

MVIP (Most Valuable Item in Pack) – Apart from my multi-country power adapter, I have to reluctantly admit that my Birks have been a good purchase. Oh, and my raincoat. Good purchase too.

Favourite City – While I’ve raved about Dunedin, I’ll have to go with Sydney on this one – beautiful beaches, harbour and endless things to do.

THE MISSES

Worst Hostel – 790 on George in Sydney for being a good knock-off of the hotel in the Shining (and for having a slash down the middle of my mattress and a pillow torn to bits), Arts Factory for cleanliness (although not due to any fault by staff, who did a wicked job trying to keep the place clean), City Lodge in Auckland for general unfriendliness and overpriced.

Worst Eats – Sydney in terms of costs, towns along Great Ocean Road in terms of variety.

Worst Experience for the Money – I didn’t go in, but the Australia Zoo. $58 just for the entrance price?! $80 for photos holding animals!? Crikey.

Worst Surprise – The value of the New Zealand dollar in Australia. Australia for the win, holy cow. Those New Zealand twenties I have left over will be making the trip onwards (to give you an idea of how bad the exchange was, I would’ve got about $18 Australian for $40 NZ). Oh, and the aforementioned cost of everything in Australia.

LVIP (Least Valuable Item in Pack) – Books. I refuse to part with them but I need to slow down with my reading a wee bit, this is getting heavy!

Something I Wish I’d Done Differently – Activated my cell phone internationally. Skype has been useful in calling home, but totally unhelpful for any of my banking woes, which happen so frequently I’m afraid to attempt to log in to my accounts!

Byron Bay

As I mentioned yesterday, I am staying at a funky little place in Byron Bay. Not really little, as there’s a campground, teepees, dorms and little cabins scattered around the property. It’s surrounded by palm trees, there’s hammocks, a pool and hot tub, pinball, good tunes and a juice bar. There’s also a club a stone’s throw from my teepee. Thank goodness for ear plugs!

In addition to the guests, a mixture of tried-and-true hippies and college-age partiers (which in itself is an interesting combo to watch), there are also residents including lizards and turkeys.

I am sleeping in a teepee. While it’s been nice to not hit my head on the ceiling, it does feel a bit like summer camp. Thankfully the lizards keep the bugs under control, except for the cockroaches (sidenote: ohmygodcockroaches).

I awake in the morning to the sounds of beautiful birds, and as I am of course up before everyone else I sit with a coffee and brekkie and enjoy the scenery.

It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. Given the nature of the place, it’s surprisingly cliquey, which has been next to impossible to break. But on the flip side, it’s also been utterly relaxing, which was my ultimate hope anyway.

Besides the pancake incident, I also have also:

  • Learned never to wear pants with buttons in a hammock. I got stuck in the hammock, tried to flip out of it, and was literally hanging by the seat of my pants. Three, count ‘em three people walked by, clearly aware that I was hanging by the seat of my pants, and kept going. The button fell off the pants and I was released to the ground with an OOF. This is funny now, but at the time HORRENDOUSLY embarrassing. Oy.
  • Attempted to body board during choppy weather. I put in a solid 20 minutes before having to get out, as it felt like I was in a washing machine. I cut my losses and sat and watched surfers get absolutely owned by the waves instead which made me feel strangely better.
  • Fought with a turkey. These animals are really tame, and when they have their eyes on the prize, you stand no chance. I wasn’t as naïve as I had been with the lizard – I came ready to fight for my food this time around.

Byron has been the perfect place to end my visit to Australia, and I highly recommend it as a nice spot to relax. It’s just as hippie-dippy as I’d expected, and the beach is beautiful (and the food, oh the food!). This afternoon I head back to Brisbane and prepare for my flight tonight…to Thailand! So I’ll be offline for a few days until I’m organized. I look forward to meeting up with my group (for those interested, I am doing Gap Adventures’ Indochina Encompassed tour) and experiencing a place that is truly foreign to me.

Hippie Dippy

I am currently staying at what can only be described as a modern-day commune. An “arts lodge”. At any rate, this morning I had banana pancakes which were fantastically delicious. I gazed off to look at my surroundings, enjoying the sun, when a lizard climbed up on the table, cocked its head to the side, and STOLE the last piece of pancake off my fork.

More on this place later. I’m still bitter about the pancake!

Sleep is Overrated.

The other night, I awoke after about two hours’ worth of sleep with the mother of all cases of heartburn. It was unlike any that I’ve had before, and as you do when you’re by yourself with no one to tell you otherwise, you convince yourself that you’re having a heart attack.

I Googled this for a good 10 minutes before determining that I was a dolt and it was indeed just heartburn.

Thank goodness I had WiFi. I planned the rest of my Australian adventures, managed to once again lock myself out of my credit card account online (an ongoing adventure in itself), ate an entire sleeve of Tums, got caught up on TMZ, and before I knew it, 4 a.m. rolled around.

I rearranged the covers in an effort to get cozy, switched off the light, and dozed off before BAM heartburn returned. I sobbed a little – I had a big day planned, as it was my last full day in Sydney, and I didn’t really want to spend the entire day snoozing – and got out of bed again, exhausted.

Thank goodness, in addition to WiFi, for Skype. I caught up with my best pal, waiting for a flight to London. (at least I think I did, the conversation may have been one-sided as I think I dozed in the middle of it). A former Sydney resident, he suggested going down to the beach to see the sunrise and then having an early brekkie.

My accommodations were a good 20-minute walk to the beach on a good day. With two hours of sleep under my belt, it took me almost 45. Man that was a slow walk. I almost parked myself on a bench to take a nap. As I neared the beach, a bus roared by, which would’ve been much-appreciated 40 minutes before. That thing got the look of death from me.

At any rate, I missed the beginning of the sunrise but had I been wearing socks, they would have been knocked off:

I fell asleep on the beach, worn out from the lack of sleep, long walk, and free from heartburn. I was rudely disturbed by the sounds of a loud horn, and awoke to a tractor in my face. Oops. Desperately needing caffeine and carbs, I went for breakfast.

Again, those socks would’ve come flying off. It was delicious (I of course took a photo of it):

 

I flipped a mental coin, and decided rather than napping the day away I should make the most of it – catching up with the lovely Amy whom I met on the ferry in New Zealand and laughing at her travel stories (never, ever, ever, bring electronics of any kind to the beach. No matter where you think the tide will be, chances are it will go further and snatch away your belongings in a scenario hilarious to everyone but you), seeing a friend from residence and cramming in a lot of sight-seeing. The day culminated in a trip on the ferry to see the harbour lit up – if I had a half-decent camera there would be marvelous pictures of this, but you’ll just have to take my word for it and do this yourself should you come to Sydney.

Things you should not do in Sydney (or anywhere, really): pull all-nighters when you’re over 23 and far too old to pull it off anymore.

Aussie Oddities

While I’ve only been to three states (Victoria, NSW and Queensland), I’ve noticed some interesting quirks to Australia:

McDonald’s is a Classy Joint
The McCafe thing is big here, and I walked by several Macca’s, as they’re called (wonder if McCartney is cool with that) which looked like upscale bakeries until I saw the golden arches hidden in the corner. Who knew.

Chips vs. Fries

Used interchangeably, I have no idea what the difference is between these. I tried ordering both (not simultaneously) and ended up with the same thing. Also ketchup is called tomato sauce – but where does that leave the other tomato sauce? I should have looked into this. Pasta sauce?

Tasty Cheese

I kept seeing this on menus, and thought “well that’s strange, why aren’t you saying that the sandwich itself is tasty?” Then I saw it in a grocery store and realized it’s a type of cheese. Apparently cheddar. Why it’s not called cheddar remains a mystery to me.

Restaurant Service

I don’t know if it’s because of the whole no-tipping standard, but service at restaurants is horrendous. I have never experienced such rudeness towards a customer in my life. Even when I tipped (before being told not to), I saw eyes rolling when I asked for clarification regarding whether a capsicum was indeed a red pepper, was ignored while waiting to order and have sat longer waiting for a bill than for eating the actual meal.

Absolute Crap US Shows on TV

When I had my own room it included a TV, and it was interesting to see that, like at home in Canada, US shows are predominantly what’s on. Mike and Molly, Two and a Half Men (although perhaps not anymore – who’s winning now Sheen!, and a million knock-offs of US reality shows were always on. While I think Australia does a better job nurturing it’s own star system, there’s still a huge reliance on Hollywood.

Pumpkin

I had it quite consistently in New Zealand but that was because I was seeking it out. Here, pumpkin is the grand poobah of vegetables. I don’t know whether there’s a pumpkin mafia somewhere threatening to break people’s legs if they don’t put it on a menu, but it is EVERYWHERE. In sandwiches, salads, quiches, pastas. I will never look at a jack-o-lantern the same again.

SPF

I got burned to a crisp my first day in Auckland, and after falling asleep on a beach in Bronte. Both times I was wearing my waterproof SPF 70+ sunscreen from home. The highest SPF I’ve seen here is 30 and I was initially worried that I was going to be absolutely fried with that on. However, I haven’t been burned once since. The slip-slap-slop mantra seems to be working (my burn still lingers, though).

Everything Costing Double

Yes, I get that you’re an island in the middle of nowhere but I find it a titch ridiculous that everything costs double. Foods aren’t imported, they’re home-grown – so why the mark-up? Why am I paying $20 for a salad? $3 for two bananas? $50 for a Lonely Planet travel guide? (I did not purchase the book, by the way – I hunted for a used bookstore and found an older edition of it, whew).  I know that people make more money here, so are prices adjusted accordingly? If so they should have special prices for people who are NOT from here. Man alive.