VanCity in the Summer

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After using last year’s vacation for a pretty big trip to Europe, we knew we’d have to stick a little closer to home this year. So when my childhood friend chose to have her wedding at home in Vancouver, we thought it was the perfect opportunity to spend a little more time in one of my favourite cities. Although I’m technically from the lower mainland, I haven’t spent a lot of time in the actual city of Vancouver. It’s always been a pretty quick overnight, giving us the opportunity to grab dinner, drinks, & maybe some brunch the next morning.

In order to have a full, uninterrupted day of exploring downtown, we decided to leave a day earlier than usual. We bunked in a friend, like we have in the past. I briefly considered a few hotels, but there’s nothing better than staying with someone you know. She also happens to live in an incredible location & is an awesome hostess – making us feel totally welcome from the minute we arrived. I’m hoping we can return the favour sometime soon (Stampede, Sash?! Do it!).

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Morning at 49th Parallel on Main

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Perfect patio weather for coffee & a donut

We started the day at a nearby local coffee shop, 49th Parallel. Not only is their coffee fantastic, but they also serve amazing Lucky’s Doughnuts in a fantastic little shop. We split an apple bacon fritter on the patio before heading back to the house to get ready for the day.

As it was a gorgeous summer day, we opted to walk to Granville Island for lunch (or pre-lunch? We had sushi plans for later too). The walk from Mount Pleasant to Granville Island was a nice half hour stroll. We arrived ready to sample some of the delicious food at the market, having worked up a bit of an appetite during our walk.

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SInce we had plans to get sushi later, so we opted to split a smoked salmon bagel to tide us over until then. I love Montreal style bagels & was pleasantly surprised to find these were pretty close to the real thing – something I rarely notice this far West. We ate them outside on a bench, overlooking the harbour, & fighting off the feisty pigeons. Those little buggers will fight you to get their hands on any little scrap. Guard your precious food closely!

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Notice the seagull patiently waiting for some scraps

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It turned out to be a pretty eventful morning for us – we officially closed on our house as we munched on our bagel. Luckily, Granville Island Brewing was a few steps away, so we made our way over for a few celebratory beers.

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Officially homeowners!

From there, we hopped on a water taxi downtown. For a few bucks, we were ferried across False Creek to the Aquatic Center on a cute little passenger boat. I really enjoyed the ride over, & the beautiful views. We were also getting pretty hungry so cutting off some time in favour of getting to sushi seemed like a good plan.

Our friends first introduced us to Kadoya Sushi a few years ago & it’s become a must-visit every time we’re in Vancouver. We’ve fought rush hour to eat there. It’s seriously that good. (Most sushi in Vancouver would give Calgary’s selection a run for its money, but this one is our fav!)

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We ordered our usual favourites: an avocado roll, a dynamite roll, a spicy salmon roll, a specialty roll, & of course, the star of the whole show – salmon sashimi. I think I could eat salmon sashimi every day & not get sick of it. (We both included it in our vows without consulting one another. The obsession is strong…)

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Imitating their little sign mascot!

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Davie Street Crosswalks

Next on the list was a bike ride around Stanley Park. We rented bikes from one of the many shops near the park’s entrance. Our bikes were nothing special (when was the last time you used rear brakes?!), but the path is flat & easy. I’d recommend it to anyone – you’re rewarded with breathtaking views & there’s plenty of spots to stop along the way. It also helps work off all the sushi & beer (so you can make room for more!).

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#thuglife

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It turned out to be much warmer than forecasted that day & I kept wishing we’d packed bathing suits as we biked passed the many beaches along our route. Instead we stopped for beers at a pub under the Burrard St Bridge – not a bad compromise if you ask me.

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We returned our bikes before dinner & started the trek towards China town. I’m never in a huge rush on vacation so although it was a bit of a longer walk across town, we were ok with it. & there were German sausages at the end of road!

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Entering Chinatown

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We’d settled on a little german spot in Chinatown (yes, you read that correctly) called Bestie. Serving up a delicious selection of sausages, fries, salads, pretzels, currywurst, & beer, this place is wicked! The food is cheap, the beer is good, & the servers are fun & friendly. I highly recommend checking it out if you like German fare even a little bit.

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Cheers!

N went with the popular currywurst – sausage served with curried ketchup over crispy fries – & I went with sausage & sauerkraut. Both were excellent, but the currywurst was the show stopper, & at $9 you really can’t go wrong! We also shared the daily salad: a spicy peanut slaw. I’m a sucker for a good coleslaw & this one was especially delicious. I would love to get my hands on that recipe!

We enjoyed our first steins so much that we wound up sticking around for a second one. They had a great atmosphere going, & sitting at the bar, we found ourselves chatting with the bartenders, all of whom seemed to be enjoying their evening at work too.

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Look for the neon sausage above the window!

We capped off the night with a drink in Gastown. I doubt I’m alone in loving this neighbourhood, & it seems impossible to take a bad photo of its cobblestone streets. They’re just so pretty! We got a couple drinks at The Flying Pig before packing it in. We figured we should call it a night relatively early, in preparation for what would probably be a late night at the wedding.

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The following day, we headed back downtown with Sasha to meet another friend for some tacos. I’d heard so many rave reviews about Tacofino & was pretty excited to finally check out their Gastown location. We grabbed a spot on the patio & dug into some of the best tacos this side of the border. They were seriously delicious! N & split a few different kinds, but I think my favourite was the Pork al Pastor. The simplicity of pork, pineapple, & pickle onion on a corn tortilla was exactly what I’d been craving (& has got me seriously stoked for our trip down to Mexico in the new year!).

After lunch, we had to head out to Langley pretty quick. I could have easily spent another couple days exploring, & eating, more in Vancouver. Our visits always seem to go by so quickly (probably cuz they are quite short.) Lucky for us, it’s not too far away so I’m sure we’ll make another trip out soon!

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Honeymoon 018 \\ Milano

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Well over a year after our honeymoon, I’m finally wrapping this series up. I didn’t set out with the intention of taking so long to blog about our adventure, but that’s how it wound up going down. At this point, I’m mostly blogging this as a souvenir for myself. Some people scrapbook. I like to journal so these posts have served as an extension of that. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride – it’s been fun reminiscing with you.

On to our final day in Europe: Milan. Let me preface this by saying that I had absolutely no expectations for this stop. I didn’t think I wouldn’t enjoy Milan, but I also didn’t put a lot of thought into it when we booked – it was a city with an airport, the final destination before heading back to reality.

If it hadn’t been for our incredible host, I doubt we’d have had half the experience we did. Marina was amazing & I highly recommend you stay with her if you’re ever in Milan. I certainly know I will. As soon as we arrived, she made us feel incredibly welcome in her great flat, introducing us to Milan using an extra large map on the back of the door & giving us the most wonderful suggestions for how to spend our evening. The flat itself had drinks, coffee, & breakfast as well. Marina had even taken the time to assemble a guide to Milan, complete with hand-drawn maps. Honestly, she went above & beyond in every way. I could have stayed so much longer in her homey flat.

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My night photography doesn’t quite do it justice – it was such a bright & airy space during the day.

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We took her suggestion to wander the pedestrian street, Corso Como, towards Porta Garibaldi, which features a beautiful arch. She’d also recommended a little restaurant called Sciatt à Porter. Specializing in Italian street food, we grabbed a cone of their namesake specialty, Sciatt. If these deep fried cheese balls were any indication of the rest of their menu, we should have ordered a few more things!

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One of the cool buildings near our flat

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Corso Como

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Porta Garibaldi

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Clearly excited for fried cheese (I mean, I travelled to Prague for fried cheese in 2009.)

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Fried cheese to go. Genius!

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Sciatt! This makes me hungry. For cheese.

Instead, we continued over to Eataly – the giant upscale italian supermarket & eatery. We picked up some food to bring home & another snack from the road. N’s snack selection makes his cured meat obsession quite apparent – it’s not the easiest on-the-go snack, but it sure is delicious! Housed in an old theatre, Eataly even hosts performances sometimes. We happened to catch one while we were there. It definitely makes for an interesting shopping & dining experience.

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Pasta at Eataly

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Whoa back flexibility

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Meat snack!

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From there, we continued down the pedestrian street to the castle – Castello Sforzesco. They were planning this as the entrance for this year’s Expo & there were celebrations & preparation happening all over the city. The castle itself is huge & mostly brick, something you don’t often see.

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I love a yellow tram

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Castle

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Our next stop was the beautiful Duomo. The square & church are just incredible. We arrived at dusk, snapped a few photos, & decided it had been awhile since our last drink. We found a spot near the Duomo, but if we are even in Milan again, I’d love to go to area around Porta Genova. Marina told us it has a great atmosphere in the evening & considering how much we loved the rest of her suggestions, I think it would be right up our alley.

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Duomo Selfie!

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Expensive wine in a very touristy area

We had chosen a restaurant near Marina’s flat for dinner. When we arrived, it was packed & we were a little worried we may not get in. Luckily, they took pity on us (it seemed to be mostly locals) & found us a table within 15 minutes. Osteria dei Vecchi Sapori was spectacular. We ordered Osso bucco, a specialty of Milan. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender & the flavours were incredible. I’d recommend it to anyone!

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The only (terrible) photo I have of the UNREAL osso bucco. 😦

We capped off the evening relaxing in our wonderful flat with a couple of beers. I hope to find myself back in Milan someday – we only barely scratched the surface. In fact, I hope to find myself in all our honeymoon spots again someday. Blogging each of them over the past year has further intensified my wanderlust. We’ve even begun talking about a trip to Northern Europe in 2017 (& I’ve already started drafting up some ideas!).

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Goodbye, Milano!

Honeymoon 017 \\ Cinque Terre Due

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Our second day in Cinque Terre started much the same as the first – with a delicious breakfast of eggs, bacon, & cappuccinos. We then made our way down the 300 or so stairs to the train station to buy tickets to Milan for the following day as well as a Cinque Terre Card for the day. We’d decided to hike the blue trail to Vernazza & then take a boat to Monterrosso, both of which would require the card.

The hike to Vernazza was as stunning as the two we’d done the day before, although a little busier. We saw twice the number of people we’d seen not the red trails – likely because they are part of the suggested routes. The most striking thing for me was the range of ages & abilities. I was happy to see such a diverse group attempting the hike. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were too. & I mean, what’s not to love? Every time we looked back at Corniglia, I thought I had spotted my favourite view of the little village. Inevitably, we’d round another corner only to discover another that blew me away.

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Trailhead to Vernazza

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Corniglia

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Fromage!

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Trail markers along the way

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Nearing Vernazza, we were rewarded with stunning views of the little village. We seemed to round a corner & suddenly find the village laid out in below. Looking down on Vernazza from the trail was one of my favourite vistas of the whole trip.

Hungry for our hike, we were pretty excited for the pizza recommendation I’d stumbled upon. I didn’t have a name, but had read we couldn’t miss it. As you descend towards the port, you’ll more or less stumble right into it. If that doesn’t tip you off, the line certainly should! It’s popular little spot.

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Excited to see Vernazza

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Arriving in Vernazza

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We snagged a table right before the rush & ordered two pizzas – pesto & sausage, predictably- & two beers. The pizza had a focaccia-like crust that was different from any other pizza we’d ordered in Italy. No complaints here – you probably could have put pesto on a cracker & I’d have been happy though, honestly.

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Pizza line-up

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Pint of Peroni

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Can you blame me for my pesto obsession?

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All of N’s loves in one photo?

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I’m not sure if it was the time of day or the town itself, but we found it considerably busier than any of the others we visited. After lunch, we wandered around the port before grabbing a large beer to share & setting up on some towels by the water. It doesn’t get much better than soaking up the sun, playing in the ocean, & sharing a cold beer on a hot day. Once we’d had our fill, we bought a couple tickets for the boat ride to the final land.

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Exploring town

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Tunnel to the beach

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Harbour

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Another gorgeous harbour

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Beers & Sun

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Waiting for the boat!

We’d opted for the boat to save ourselves some time. We’d read that Vernazza to Monterosso was the hardest of the four hikes, & although I’m sure we could have managed, we didn’t want to feel rushed catching the train back to Corniglia. I love being out the ocean so the boat wasn’t a hard sell.

Monterosso had more of a beach feel than any of the other towns. We wandered around town, stopping in on little shops along the way to check out local products & art. There was so much wonderful art, & the photography was especially impressive. We picked up a print to bring home & headed over to a beachside restaurant for a drink with a view.

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Goodbye Vernazza

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Monterosso from the boat

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The street(s) of Monterosso

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Beach bar hangs

We finished our drinks & hopped on the train back to Corniglia for appies & wine at the cutest enoteca. The little garden patio overlooking the bay was the ideal setting for our final sunset. Their cheeky signs (announcing their lack of wifi to encourage conversation), delicious wine & appies, & wonderful service were the perfect way to watch the day wind down.

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Cheeky explanation for their lack of Wi-Fi

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Can I eat this now?

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Getting our daily fill of sardines. They are so much more delicious when they’re fresh!

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Corniglia from our rooftop. If you look closely you can spot the little enoteca.

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Sunset from our rooftop

After sunset, we climbed a little further up the hill for dinner. I couldn’t resist a final meal including that incredible pesto. Pesto twice in one day? Works for me! Heading into the village centre for a couple of beers afterwards, we discovered a cute little spot. All of the bars in Corniglia are on the smaller side, giving them an especially intimate feel. Each has it’s own special features, leaving me feeling like I could have easily spent a few more days exploring (& imbibing). I certainly didn’t want to go to bed, knowing we’d be leaving in the morning.

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On the roof before dinner

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One last sunset

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Dinner

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& more local wine

We reluctantly packed up our airbnb rental in the morning & headed over to another little garden restaurant for a leisurely breakfast – trying to soak up the last of Cinque Terre before our train. The surprising highlight of breakfast turned out to be a freshly squeezed orange-lemon juice, or the most incredible juice in the world. I wish I’d learned about it sooner! I’d have ordered it daily.

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Our breakfast beverage spread.

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Cappuccinos in the garden. Why did I ever leave?

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It doesn’t look like much, but this juice was everything, guys.

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Final goodbyes

As we walked down the winding road to the train station, rolling suitcases in tow, we watched the men working in the vineyards. It must have been harvest. Most were gathering grapes into red bins & putting them in the back of their trucks. One man carried his down in a bucket on his back & put it in the back of his car. They politely said hello as we passed – I’m sure we looked completely ridiculous & out of place to them, trekking down the hill with all our luggage.  Every interaction during our stay in Cinque Terre had been warm & friendly, so it seemed fitting that it should end in the same way.

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Harvest!

I want to remember every detail of Cinque Terre. I loved every minute we spent exploring those breathtaking five lands & if I could only suggest one place to visit in Italy, this would be it.

On Bravery

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Château de Chenonceau – Loire Valley (2006)

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly brave person. Independent, strong-willed, stubborn – yes. If you asked me to describe myself, I wouldn’t use brave as a qualifier though. It figures pretty low down the list, & I’d actually probably describe myself as more cautious. I reserve that description for soldiers, firefighters, & the like.

My best friend is backpacking through Europe on her own right now though, & we were discussing the comments that ultimately come up when you decide to go on such an adventure. I’ve done the bulk of my travel alone, & as I’ve expressed many times before, I am passionate in my belief that solo travel is important. I suppose I’d given her the impression that it’s also normal. Unfortunately, ten years after my first trip, it’s still not. In fact, more often than not, people comment that they could never travel alone. They’re in disbelief that she’s travelling by herself. I got this reaction often too, & then when I returned, I was often told I was brave for going it alone.

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All the solo travel selfies

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Covered Bridges in Strasbourg

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Solo drinks & planning

While I also love to travel with friends, I think it’s a completely different experience. (I’m really don’t mean to knock group travel! It has some serious merits too!) I’m sad that the prospect of travelling alone would deter someone from travel at all. Honestly, I feel they’re missing out. I hope perception around this is changing, but we clearly haven’t reached a point of normalization.

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Prague Castle

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Perouges, France

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Silly self timer shot in Perouges

If that’s what’s keeping you from an experience, let me just say that you can do it. New experiences can seem daunting at first, but it won’t take long to adapt. Take the leap! I personally loved my experiences & found incredible freedom in the opportunity to do as I pleased. I loved wandering new cities with no real destination, sitting in cafes reading or writing, & taking as many photos as I wanted without worrying that I was holding someone up. It gave me time to figure out who I was on my own, which was invaluable.  & since I was mostly hostelling, I met people in the evenings & enjoyed the company of others when I wanted it.

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Making friends in Munich

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Ski day at Chamrousse

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Lake Geneva

Have you ever travelled alone? Would you consider it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Living Abroad \\ Journaling

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I’ve always loved the physical act of writing. There’s something so cathartic about putting pen to paper that nothing else compares to. While I do keep an online calendar for some appointments & reminders, I still also keep a handwritten daytimer/journal. I find I remember things better if I write them down, but I also enjoy having my memories on paper.

The majority of my journaling has taken place while abroad. I’m a strong proponent of keeping some form of written account while travelling. Whether you jot down things you saw & did in point form or write a full account of your days, it’s both a wonderful keepsake & incredibly helpful when all those buildings in your photos start to look the same. It’s been huge for blogging about our honeymoon & remembering details a year later. I love looking back on them when I have a spare moment & they have the added bonus of jogging my memory when people ask for travel tips. Sure, there are moments I’d like to forget, but most of the time I look back & realize how much I’ve grown. & that’s a pretty cool thing to witness in yourself.

My favourite journal is the moleskine journal. I’ve given these beauties to many people before their trips & have a large collection myself. They’re durable, simple, relatively compact, & have a pocket for postcards, receipts, or tickets. I highly recommend them.

Whatever the journal you choose, I recommend taking a few minutes throughout your trip to sit down & jot down a few things. It doesn’t have to be a novel. You never have to show it to anyone else. It’s yours to do what you want with. I promise you won’t regret the keepsake or the memories.

Happy Travels, friends!

Honeymoon 016 \\ Cinque Terre Uno

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When I look back on our honeymoon, it’s nearly impossible to pick a favourite destination. Our trip was filled with incredible sights & wonderful memories. If I did make some kind of list though, Cinque Terre world certainly figure towards the top. This region combines everything I love most about travel : phenomenal food, breathtaking views, welcoming locals, & an array of activities to keep us from getting bored.

Cinque Terre literally means five lands. It consists of five villages along the rugged Italian coastline, in the region of Liguria: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, & Riomaggiore. I did a lot of research on the area before choosing the quietest (& perhaps least accessible) of the five towns, Corniglia, as our homebase. The laid-back, slower pace & central location appealed to me, but it’s not for the faint of heart. In order to reach the town’s centre, you’ll have to climb over 300 steps. Unlike the other four towns, Corniglia is also not accessible by boat. We found these traits added to the charm of the little village & allowed for much quieter evenings.

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Training across Italy

After a day of train travel across Italy, we arrived in our small, seaside village quite late. The Italian train system was exactly how I remembered from my limited experience – usually late & a little bit quirky. Getting off the train in a new place after dark that night, I wasn’t so sure of our decision. Our late arrival meant the shuttle up the hill was no longer running. We were forced to walk up, enormous rolling suitcases in tow (I almost always travel with a backpack, but we decided to try to be a bit classier since we were cruising. I missed my backpack once we were off the ship). We decided to take the dark, winding road, crossing our fingers that it was the right direction. Luckily, we bumped into another couple who assured us we were on the right track.

The main square was pretty quiet when we finally reached it. A few diners lingered over their meals, tourists enjoyed a stroll for ice cream, & locals gathered for a chat. I love how squares are the heartbeat of most European towns & cities.

The grocer on the corner was still open, so we took the opportunity to ask for directions to our rental. Instead of pointing us to the building, he picked up the phone & called Lidia, the lady we were renting from. That’s how small Corniglia is. She pulled up a few minutes later & walked us over to our apartment, pointing out some of the things we’d need to know in the coming days. She only gave us a quick overview before sending us off to dinner before the restaurants closed for the night.

We chose a place on the main square & ordered some wine, trenette al pesto, & grilled fish. It was all delicious, especially after such a long day of travel. I really couldn’t get enough of that pesto. Afterwards, we bought a bottle of wine & had a couple glasses on our rooftop terrace, overlooking the little village & coastline.

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I still dream about this pesto

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our cute, little room

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view of the square from our terrace

After a few additional tips from Lidia in the morning, we grabbed a nice, big breakfast & set out for the day. The two easiest hikes were unfortunately closed due to landslides in the area. Instead, we planned to do the more difficult (but free) ones. We started with the trail to Manarola, along the red line. Climbing further & further up the steep path, the view quickly became impressive. Once we’d almost reached the peak, we split off onto another trail to start our traverse. This part of the path was probably my favourite; I gushed over the many olive trees, lemon trees, & terraced vineyards. It was suddenly clear where the incredible, fresh flavours of everything we ate came from (their backyard, literally). We were surrounded by vines (some of the steepest vineyards I’ve ever seen) everywhere we looked. It was truly an incredible sight.

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Breakfast

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Corniglia from the trail

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Beautiful, beautiful Corniglia

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Terraced vines

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Narrow path & vines on either side

Our descent into Manarola included over 1000 stairs & panoramic views of the village. I probably exclaimed, “this is so beautiful!” over 200 times. We followed our stomachs to a little restaurant in the heart of the village, grabbing a spot on their terrace. I decided to go for the grilled octopus & was not disappointed. It was the most tender octopus I’ve ever tasted. Like most of the food in Italy, simple & delicious, I never knew it could taste thate amazing. N went with the lobster spaghetti, which he thoroughly enjoyed (can you really go wrong with lobster?).

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Manarola from the trail

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Working our way down

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I only remembered a photo halfway through so this doesn’t look like much, but trust me: the bomb.

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Manarola features an incredible harbour, full of people sunbathing, swimming, & cliff jumping. We decided to join them & each jumped off about a ten foot cliff. It was scary at first, but once we got over the fear, it was so much fun. The water was the perfect temperature & I could have easily swam for a couple hours. We wanted to see Riomaggiore too though so we had to get back on the trail.

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I loved watching them lower boats into the water

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The town isn’t really that far, but with Via dell’ Amore close, it took about an hour to do the harder hike. Instead of a 25 minute walk on a paved pathway, we headed straight up the mountain (& I mean STRAIGHT up). It was pretty much 25 min up, a little break at the top, then 25 min back down. Once we got into the village, we grabbed a cone of mixed fried fish including calamari, white fish, crayfish, & whole anchovies. I wasn’t sure how I’d find the whole fish, but they wound up being my favourite part. Everything was delicious & tender, but those little anchovies stole the show. We bought a large beer from a grocery store & headed down to the rocks, enjoying the sun, sea, & a cold drink. We also picked up some pesto & a nice bottle of local wine before taking the train back to Corniglia.

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I love these colourful little villages

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Seafood cone – just do it.

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Bringing his boat up for storage

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Wine makes waiting for trains go much quicker

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Sadly closed (still, a year later)

We caught the end of the sunset on the panoramic terrace in Corniglia. There’s a little bar that sets up tables & chairs there. We ordered a few appies – some tartines with pesto & anchovies, & cheese with honey – grabbed a couple glasses of wine, & watched the sunset. It was delicious.

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Simple & delicious

Quickly changing for dinner, we decided to try a cute little spot in the centre. When we’d walked past the previous night, it was packed, so we figured it was a good bet. It turned out Osteria a Cantina de Mananan was a winner. Although, we were the last diners, our server didn’t rush us &, instead, made us feel welcome in every way.

We started our meal with some charcuterie, cheese, olives, & this surprisingly delicious quiche. I like quiche, but I never think that highly of it. This version was a total game changer. For our main course, we shared a huge bowl of spaghetti with shellfish. It had a slight spice & buttery sauce, with an incredible amount of fresh seafood. It was one of my favourite meals in Italy. I can’t recommend this spot enough. (After reading reviews, we lucked out in getting a table without a reservation. Look into booking ahead.)

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We ended the day with another bottle of wine on our terrace. It was quickly becoming our favourite way to finish off the day.(How can you go wrong?)

I’ve been thinking about Cinque Terre since we left. I knew I loved France & that the cruise would be a great experience, but I wasn’t expecting to fall head over heels for Italy in the way that I did. I’ll recap our second, equally wonderful, day in Cinque Terre next time.

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Honeymoon 015 \\ Venice

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Despite a very late night after Dubrovnik, we managed to get ourselves out of bed early enough on our final cruise day to watch the approach into Venice. It is definitely worth finding a spot on a forward deck for, if you find yourself onboard someday. The port requires all ships use tug boats & at some points it looked like we were going to run them over.

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We met up with some family friends who had boarded early, studied the map for our walk into the city, & got directions to meet up for dinner later one before heading out to explore Venice. We wandered from the terminal to the Ponte Academia, where we shared a pizza & a drink. From there, we continued to San Marco, getting lost in the maze of bridges & dead ends a few times. The city is beautiful though & getting lost seems to be a right of passage there.

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Making our way into Venice

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Gondola Builder

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Ponte Academia

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drinks by the bridge

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venice life

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a man & his flying lion

Piazza San Marco is impressive. The people feeding pigeons grossed me out a bit, but to each his own, I suppose. I’m happy to take photos of it, but I’ll refrain from actually letting them land on me. We eventually made our way to the Rialto Bridge & grabbed another drink (after getting lost a few more times). I loved watching the gondolas & wandering the narrow streets. The boats speed along as if they could brake if need be. It’s incredible to watch.

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Feeding the birds in the square

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So narrow!

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Busy Venice

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View from the Rialto Bridge

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At 8, we found our way to the very hidden restaurant to meet everyone. It only took us two stops to ask for directions & a couple wrong turns.

Dinner was exactly what you’d expect from an Italian meal – incredible hospitality, lots of laughter, simple, delicious food, & all the wine you could ask for. To start things off, the owner put together an amazing set of seafood platter for our table. We all shared clams, calamari, shrimp, & a few unknowns. It was all delicious! For our main course, N & I both chose risotto. By this point, I was quite full though & barely made a dent, which was a shame because it was perfectly creamy & full of seafood. I’m so glad we were able to join everyone in Venice – it was such a wonderful evening & a great way to cap off our cruise.

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One of the many seafood platters

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risotto

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interior of one of the gorgeous hotels

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Last shot of our home for the week, Ventura.

We took a boat back to the ship for our last night on the ship. It was a pretty quiet one since we had to be packed & out of our room pretty early the next day.

Honeymoon 014 \\ Dubrovnik

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We woke up to a bit of a gloomy morning in Dubrovnik. I had visited this lovely city a few years before with a girlfriend so I was excited to show N some of my favourite parts. We packed for every type of weather & hopped on the transfer to the old town. By the time we arrived, the sun was out & the day looked promising.

A little disappointed with the weather.

A little disappointed with the weather.

The old city was packed with people. During the week I was there in 2010, I don’t remember it ever being that busy. We must have avoided the area around Pile gate as soon as the ships came in though, since it’s notorious for being that way when the ships come in.

Happy with the weather in town

Happy with the weather in town

Busy Old Town

Busy Old Town

We immediately bought tickets for the fortified city wall and headed up. We only had about four hours in the city so we decided to hit it right away. We weren’t the only ones so things moved pretty slowly. At halfway, we decided to head into the city as the day had gotten quite hot.

We decided to leave my good camera on the ship in Dubrovnik. I already have photos of the city from 2010 so we opted to travel a little lighter & use our phones & my point & shoot.

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Blue waters and colourful rooftops

Blue waters and colourful rooftops

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I love the little glimpses of everyday life you catch from the wall.

I love the little glimpses of everyday life you catch from the wall.

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<3

In much need of a drink, we headed over to Café Buza. This little ramshackle bar is much talked about on the internet, mostly by people who love it. The sunsets are supposed to be amazing (although, I actually never experienced one since we had a fantastic view from our villa in 2010) & it certainly has its fair share of charm. A quick google search should point you in the right direction. If you get lost, follow the other tourists until you get to a hole in the wall (buza means hole, apparently) & you’re there.

I go to Cafe Buza for the cliff jumping, & that’s what I’d personally recommend. Don’t expect to find locals here. Or cheap beer. This place is definitely for tourists. I still think it’s fun, but if that’s not your jam, there are plenty of great places in the area that should fit the bill.

We spent our afternoon soaking up vitamin D, drinking beers, & jumping into the crystal clear waters of the Adriatic. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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Refreshing

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Buza Bar!

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Working on my tan lines

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Cliff Jumpers

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Once we’d had our fill of cliff jumping, we headed back inside the walls for some lunch. We grabbed a spot on a patio in a square for some seafood & quid ink risotto. Delicious! We rounded out our day wandering the narrow streets & harbour, grabbing some ice cream along the way.

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Square & Market

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If you can manage to stand on this, you’re apparently trustworthy.

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It’s surprisingly difficult.

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The afternoon seemed to fly by & before long, it was time to head back to the ship. We grabbed a couple beers and found on spot on deck 17 for the great British Sailaway. It looked like a storm was brewing on the horizon, but we managed to skirt the storm. We sang, danced, & pretended we were British, as we sailed along the beautiful Croatian coastline. The Adriatic is just stunning. Croatia’s islands are definitely on my list of places I would like to visit some day.

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Preparing to say goodbye to beautiful Croatia.

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I could stay a while longer…

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Flags for sailaway!

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Getting ready to bust out some dance moves.

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I think you can guess the song based on this dance….

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Yay Britain!

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Storm in the distance

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Gorgeous Islands

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We continued the party that night at Havana nightclub, dancing until they turned the lights on & kicked us out.

Photography

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New Camera & Loaner Lenses

I’ve always loved taking photos. I’ve used almost every popular photo sharing website at some point – Photobucket, Facebook, Flickr, tumblr, Instagram…I love sharing memories with family & friends, creating scrapbooks & photo albums, & remembering special moments.

Six years ago, I got my first DSLR camera: a Nikon D60. My parents treated me to a photography course for my birthday that year, where I learned the (very) basics. It was great!

That little Nikon has served me well. It’s been with me on most road trips as well as down to Mexico & on our European Honeymoon. & I’ve taken some great photos with it. It also taught me about the kind of lenses & photography that I truly enjoy. The only lens I’ve ever bought is a NIKKOR 35mm f/1.8G Lens. I love this lens. It’s great in low light & provides an undistorted angle of view, similar to what your eye sees. My D60 has a cropped sensor so it translates to about a normal 50 mm focal length. 50 mm is a fantastic everyday focal length, if you ask me. (I highly recommend this lens if you have a Nikon that uses DX lenses – good quality for a reasonable price). I used this camera & lens combination pretty happily for 4 years before I started to notice some things.

First of all, I found myself switching back to my kit lens (an underwhelming 18-55 mm f3.5-5.6G lens) when we travelled or if I was trying to get a photo of N & I together. & I really didn’t like having to switch back. I’m a huge advocate of prime lenses because the quality is so much better (especially if your budget is smaller). The style of photography I most enjoy doesn’t require a huge zoom lens anyway. Personal preference.

The second issue I started running into with my D60 was the in-camera focusing. If I was ever using autofocus, it had a really hard time, & switching to manual wasn’t giving me the best results either.

So I was feeling like it was time for a new camera. I started researching & was finding that a lot of the lenses I would be interested in were only available for a full frame camera. Full frame cameras are still, sadly, out of my price range (& beyond my skill level). I wanted something a little more compact, but with more lens options than my current set up. That’s when mirrorless cameras caught my attention. I contacted my uncle to ask for some advice (who is extremely knowledgeable about cameras & lenses). He responded quickly & was a wealth of information so I felt confident in my decision. He even offered to send me a few lenses to play with once I got my camera.

The following week, I headed down to The Camera Store & purchased a Sony a6000. Two lenses were already on their way, care of my Uncle. I’ve been playing around with this new camera for about a month now & couldn’t be happier with my purchase. I’ve mostly been using the two lenses he sent me, both of which are fully manual, so it’s been a pretty big learning curve. Having to slow down my picture-taking & think more is a bit of a blessing though.

I’m especially loving the 28mm f2.8 lens he sent. He included a Speedbooster adapter (both lenses are Canon fd mounts) so it converts to a 30 mm f2.0. I absolutely love it! I think 35 mm is my favourite focal length, so it’s getting quite close to that.

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Canon 50 mm fd 1.4 with regular adapter

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Canon 28 mm fd 2.8 with Metabones Speedbooster Adapter

Two of the coolest features on the A6000 are the magnifier & focus assist colours. While I used to struggle to get a sharp image with my D60 when focusing manually, I’m finding these two features alleviate this issue.

I’m really looking forward to playing around more. I’ll definitely be sad to send these lenses back to Toronto, but I’ve got my eye on a Sigma 19mm f.28 (which would convert to about a 29 mm focal length).

Enough nerding out about my new toy though. Here are a few actual photos that I’ve taken since my purchase. (I’m still very much in learning mode here!)

Staub Asparagus

I have a strange love for photos of asparagus

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Dad’s ravioli

marantz

our marantz receiver

campfire

campfire

campfire

pt 2

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YYC

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Food Truck Frenzy

brisket

Brisket

Proof

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Parc

Parc Brasserie Appies

lover

Lukes

Lukes & the Langevin

simmons

Simmons Building

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take 2

Village Ice Cream

Village Salted Caramel

tomato sauce

San Marzano

assembly

Assembly Required

pizza

‘za

L

L

Sled Island

Sled Island Block Party

Owen Pallett

Owen Pallett

Cannibale

Cannibale

Honeymoon 13 \\ Sea Day Two

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On our second Sea Day, we woke up to another gorgeous day. We had a tour of the bridge scheduled in the morning, but we grabbed a couple reasonably located chairs beforehand. I swear people must get up at the crack of dawn to reserve chairs!

The bridge tour was incredible, & pretty intimate. There were only 6 of us so we got to ask as many questions as we could think of, & take some photos. You get such a different perspective from up there. I still can’t get over how large Ventura is.

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Bridge Tour: steering wheel isn’t quite what you’d imagine…

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VIew of Ventura from the bridge – she’s huge!

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Ready to drive?

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Blurry bell ringing

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All the different flags

We spent the rest of the day relaxing by the main pool. This was definitely my favourite place to be since it’s where everything happens (& I thought the pool was the best). We even spent some time on the deck overlooking the pool drinking pimms. How British!

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Always makes this face for the first photo. Attractive.

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Clearly the best way to enjoy your Pimms

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That evening was another formal evening so we got dressed up again. We were having dinner at East, one of the restaurants with a surcharge, with our family friend, Kathy. We met at her office & got a quick tour of the galley. As with everything else onboard, the space is so clean & organized. The kitchen pumps out 1300 meals in 40 minutes. Crazy!

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Formal Dress

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Looking classy in his wedding suit

Michelin-starred chef Atul Kochhar has created a beautiful menu at East. N & I shared their taster appies – the Chiang Mai ribs were by far my favourite & overshadowed my memory of the others (a good reason to take food photos? haha).

For our main course, we both opted for Atul’s Signature plate, which included Khmer king prawns, Thai green chicken curry, & lamb korma. Kathy suggested an Indian wine to go with our meal. I had no idea what to expect from an Indian wine. Truthfully, I had no idea India produced wine so I was pleasantly surprised with a great-tasting find. I finished things off with a impressive desert. They brought what looked like a simple chocolate ball, but as they poured warm chocolate over, it melted to reveal…well, more chocolate. Quite the impressive presentation! All in all, a beautiful meal with great company. & while the food in the dining room is also fantastic (especially on formal nights), I have no regrets about branching out. We were impressed with both restaurants with surcharges that we tried so I’d recommend checking at least one of them out (or at least the wine list at the Glass House – it’s the best on the ship!).

We wrapped up dinner just in time for that evenings’ show – Reel2Reel – followed by drinks at the Metropolis bar at the back of the ship. The classiest bar on the ship, they show different skylines every night, & you’ll mostly find people sipping cocktails & enjoying the live music.

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Obligatory Atrium Photo

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Atrium dance

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Metropolis Bar Selfie

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End of the night elevator selfie

After another great day onboard, we packed it in pretty early in preparation for our next day in port. On to Dubrovnik!