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!

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!

Eight Hours in Dunedin

I blew through Dunedin, due to poor planning on my part (and also not knowing that it was so lovely). It reminded me quite a bit of Kingston, Ontario, a place that I love, what with its older architecture and overall charm. But, I only had about 8 waking hours to spend in Dunedin before running for the bus to Queenstown, so I made the best of it.

Thus, how to spend eight great hours in Dunedin:

Late evening: Find nice hostel. Central Backpackers was better than some fancier hotels that I’ve stayed in. Plus they had a huge, clean kitchen, female-only dorms and a friendly cat! On the downside, none of the doors are numbered, so you have a few “what’s behind door number one?” moments before the cat rolls its eyes at you and points you in the right direction. Hit the sack to prepare for an early morning.

Crack of dawn: Hunt for great breakfast. I had some delicious meals in Dunedin, including some late-night Chinese at the Noodle Hut, brekkie at The Perc and a HUGE lasagna for lunch at Pot Pourri, a vegetarian (!) restaurant.

Early morning: Go for tour of Cadbury’s factory. Find it by following the smell of melting Dairy Milk. Get a discount on it by clipping coupons from those annoying tourist magazines you find at the airport. Pay close attention to video at beginning of tour as it contains a lot of trivia answers that you’ll be tested with later on. Collect samples as reward for knowing all the answers. Eat samples for second breakfast.

Late morning: Window shop to see the work of local artists and visit the Dunedin Art Gallery for neat cards and free WiFi. Or, sit outside in the Octagon and use the free WiFi there and simultaneously people watch/listen to crazies preach about our impending doom. Eat more Cadbury’s samples.

Lunchtime: Eat lunch, which will likely contain pumpkin as every meal in New Zealand seems to have it. Walk around admiring architecture before heading to the bus station.

The end.

Facing Fears and Playing Pirates in Queenstown

A rainy Monday here in Queenstown, as I wind down my New Zealand travels and prepare to head back to Christchurch tomorrow for my flight to Australia. The weather here has been hit and miss, which I was warned about beforehand. Weather forecasts traditionally involve “bring a jacket, a hat, a t-shirt, sunscreen, a sweater, and you’ll be alright”, which has been accurate. I managed to find a delightful cafe overlooking the waterfront that is dry (to say I am soaked to the bone would be an understatement) and serves latte bowls as big as your face. Also, free WiFi! So good time for an update.

After spending about 7 hours on a bus getting to Queenstown on Friday, I hopped on another bus at the crack of dawn on Saturday to go to Milford Sound (photos and such to follow). That was a 12 hour bus day. So, understandably, I wanted nothing to do with any forms of transportation or sitting on my behind yesterday and went for a few hikes to explore the neighbourhood.

Continue reading “Facing Fears and Playing Pirates in Queenstown”

A New, Exciting Take on the History of New Zealand

I’ve crammed a lot of the country into my time here, so I feel I’ve seen a pretty good cross-section of New Zealand at this point. I have to say, it reminds me a lot of some of my favourite places to travel – BC, California and Hawaii – which is a very good thing. While I’ve been hearing a lot about the Maori history, I like to imagine that this place came about somewhat differently (and I have a lot of time on my hands on some bus rides, hence the following):

SCENE: A roundtable gathering of representatives from some of the world’s most geographically attractive nations. A discussion, if you will, about what’s been working so far and what needs improvement with each respective nation. There’s a Canadian, an American, a fine fellow representing the Caribbean, and a Relaxed Guy at the end of the table with his feet up and a beer. He doesn’t add much to the conversation, but takes a lot of notes and cracks jokes occasionally.

The Canadian mentions that the mountains, those mountains out west seem to be drawing the crowds. Relaxed Guy nods enthusiastically and scribbles something on his notepad. The American notes that having a variety of national parks, ranging from desert to volcanic to tropical, are working out well. The Caribbean fellow adds that people seem to enjoy relaxing on their white sand beaches and love the aqua-coloured water. “Ah, yes, fascinating, great stuff,” says Relaxed Guy, sipping his beer. The three nations mention that large insects and animals seem to cause some visitors distress, and wish they could get ride of them. Relaxed Guy nods enthusiastically and flips his page over, writing “ONLY CUTE ANIMALS” in large letters. The American, shaking her head, says that for some reason their population isn’t always perceived to be that friendly. “ONLY NICE PEOPLE,” writes Relaxed Guy, with another swig of beer.

The Caribbean fellow turns to Relaxed Guy and asks what country he represents, and what he’d like to add to the discussion. Relaxed Guy, now finished his beer, flips his notebook shut and reveals he’s from a new country, and he just popped by to nick some ideas off the rest of them to create the best country ever. Which he did. Hence, New Zealand.

Sometimes I think I should have gone on to become a history teacher, which was one of my earlier interests. Of course, my teachings likely wouldn’t have been 100% accurate which some might find problematic.