North America

On The Road: Yellowstone National Park

One of the most beautiful places we visited on the trip and my favourite national park was Yellowstone National Park. Famous for being the world's first national park established back in 1872 and the home of super volcano Yellowstone Caldera. Created on a volcanic hot spot, the park is massive and is a perfect spot to spend a few days exploring.   

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We only spent one day there but we still saw so much! There is lots of geothermal activity and natural wonder to behold - as well as a huge array of wildlife. The place that I found most amazing was the Grand Prismatic Spring, which gets its bright colours from pigmented thermophilic bacteria found in its hot waters. This famous hot spring is nearly 300 feet (91 m) around, and 160 feet (49 m) deep. It is located approximately 7 miles (11 km) north of Old Faithful. The colours of the spring were unreal and no picture can do it justice. The heat can be felt and the smell of sulphur is strong but it is worth it - trust me! 

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You can't go to Yellowstone and not visit Old Faithful. Named Old Faithful due to the fact that its eruptions are highly predictable (it erupts every 45 – 125 minutes), the geyser is easily accessible from the West Entrance to the park. It is located just west of Yellowstone Lake, and visitors can stand around the perimeter for the perfect view of that Old Faithful eruption. Geysers are always fascinating to watch and Old Faithful is no different! 

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Formed by thousand years of erosion rocks, water, and other natural energy, Grand canyon of Yellowstone is the main scenic attractions in Canyon Village. The Canyon is the largest canyon in the southern river of Yellowstone waterfall and there are many regional observer points like Lookout Point, Red Rock Point and many other points along the South Rim Trail, from there, you can admire the canyon and waterfalls from many different angles. (Artist Point ideal for people who want to see clearly the Lower Falls).

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There are plenty of beautiful hikes to take in Yellowstone park and lots of opportunities to spot wildlife. Head to Hayden Valley, located just north of Yellowstone Lake, the area is a favourite spot to find elk, coyotes, bison, and bears (okay, that last one might be much better viewed from a very sensible distance). There are also two well-known hiking trails in the area – the Hayden Valley Trail and the Mary Mountain Trail. Mount Washburn is a fantastic place for hiking as well as seeing incredible views of the park. Its summit is at an elevation of 10,000 feet (3,050 m), meaning that the Teton Mountains are visible on clear days! Lamar Valley is a gorgeous place to take a hike with lush greenery.  

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On the Road: Biking Through Gotham (Chicago)

On the Road: Biking Through Gotham (Chicago)

For those of you who are batman fans or at least fans of the Christopher Nolan batman films you may or may not know that the majority of the films are filmed in….Chicago! When I visited there in June we were booked in to do a late afternoon bike tour of the city with Bobby’s bikes but the weather wasn't great it was cold and misty but as soon as we were shown the first part where the films were filmed it was great! It was like biking through Gotham city.

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On the Road: Niagara Falls

On the Road: Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls is made of three waterfalls but the most famous and picturesque is Horseshoe Falls. The other two can be found on the American side and they are called American Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. It is located on the New York and Canadian border along the Niagara river. Both sides of the river have their own unique experience of the Falls and you can cross Rainbow Bridge to either side. The Falls themselves are impressive to say the least!

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On the Road: An epic road trip

On the Road: An epic road trip

After reading and falling in love with Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road,' I always dreamed about taking a road trip around America. I wanted to experience the thrills of the east, the sprawling landscapes of the west, the small town charms of the north and the famous hospitality of the south. I wanted to see it all - from towering mountains to white sand beaches, the top of skyscrapers to the bottom of canyons!

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Ottawa's Parliament Hill

Parliament Hill, known to locals at The Hill, is an area of Crown land on the southern banks of the Ottawa River located at 111 Wellington Street in down town. Ottawa is Canada’s capital which means that the city houses some impressive architecture and government buildings. Parliament hill was definitely an impressive sight.
Parliament Hill’s main building is the Centre Block which houses the commons and senate chambers as well as the offices of many high ranking government officials. Built in the Gothic Revival style, the Centre Block is one of Canada’s most recognizable works of architecture. You can find it printed on dollar bills. The East Block (pictured here) is home to parliamentary offices, and is one of only two Parliament structures which have survived from the original construction.Across from the East Block is the West Block, with similar functions.  The West Block is slated as the temporary home to the House of Commons during a renovation to the Centre Block in 2019.

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On the rear of the Centre Block is the Library of Parliament, the only surviving remnant from the original Centre Block built in 1876. This was by far my favourite place in all of Canada! As a book lover I wanted to stay in here forever.

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Thing's You'll Learn During Your First Northern Winter

My first experience of Canada was in winter - and it happened to be one of the worst they had experience in a long time. Coming from England where the idea of snow is laughable, I learnt a lot of new things. Here are a few things you will learn:

You Can Never Have Enough Layers! 

One coat will definitely not be enough for a Northern Winter but it is worth investing in a quality coat because it will be a lifesaver in the snow. The coat should be waterproof/windproof and thermal if possible. However you will also need layers! thermals, long sleeved tops, jumpers, fleeces, coats, good socks – the works!

No Amount Of Layers Will Be Enough

A jumper (even twelve) will not be enough because once the cold gets in past your layers then there’s not much you can do except go inside and warm up! In the Northern Winter you have to think about your body and what it needs to survive, but on the bright side that means lots of fires, hot chocolates and food! 

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Your Clothes Will Fall Apart

You find out pretty quickly which brands of clothing are built to last and which ones are built for fashion. Be prepared to replace a lot of clothing and it’s worth buying the important stuff like shoes and coat once you are there.

The Snow Won’t Listen To The Seasons

Winter doesn’t have a start and a stop date. Just because it’s March or April doesn’t guarantee an end to the winter. My friends tell me it’s still snowing there in June. Try to wait it out and don’t look at pictures of beaches or sun.
 

You Will Get Pale

It’ll be the palest you’ve ever been in your life. You’ll be made fun of by your friends and family back home. Prepared to be as white as a ghost — perhaps even sometimes scaring yourself in the mirror!

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Hand-Warmers Will Be Your Best Friend

Stick them in your gloves. Stick them in your socks. Stick them everywhere you can.

Snow Will Make You A Child Again

If your lucky then you will learn all the fun things you can do in the snow like snow slides, snow fights, building snow people, making caves and all the other winter culture that the North has.

It Will Be The Best Time Of Your Life!

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Montréal Biodome

The bio dome in Montréal was a wonderful place to spend a few hours.  The building was originally constructed for the 1976 Olympic games  as a velodome but was turned into the bio dome shortly afterwards where it now houses thousands of animal and plant species. There are four ecosystems to walk through so I would recommend wearing layers for the varied temperatures.

You can find the bio dome at 4777 Avenue Pierre-de Coubertin, Montréal, QC H1V 1B3and it is wildly popular, so try to visit during the week, avoiding the middle of the day if possible. Plan two hours to do it justice. You can bring a packed lunch for the picnic tables or dine in the cafeteria. In summer there are educational day camps for kids

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Tropical Forest (South American Rainforest) 

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Laurentian Forest (North American Wilderness) 

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The appearance of the Laurentian Forest varies widely with the seasons, with special habitats for lynx, otters and around 350 bats

 Saint Lawrence Marine Eco-system (Gulf of Saint Lawrence)

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Here you can find an underwater observatory where you can watch cod feeding alongside lobsters and sea urchins in the tidal pools.

Arctic Cold (Arctic and Antarctica) 

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Here you can find frolicking penguins in the icy climate.

 

The Montréal bio dome was the most diverse and large bio dome that I have visited so far. It was both interesting and educational! 

Québec Carnival 2015

Québec winter carnival is said to the biggest in the world, and it is a true celebration of winter and all it has to offer. Every year, there are new features and attractions added to the three weekend long program. The 2014 Quebec Winter Carnival runs January 31 to February 16 – visit the website for details.
Bonhomme Carnaval, or Bonhomme for short, was created in 1954 and has become synonymous with the event. The seven-foot-tall, 400-pound jolly snowman, with his signature red toque and arrowhead sash, isn’t a mascot – he’s an ambassador. You can find his image and the snowman himself nearly everywhere!

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All around the city are some really impressive ice sculptures. My favourite was the iron throne from the game of thrones! There is also an ice palace that you can walk around in.

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The parade was one of the best I have seen so far and despite the cold it was a really enjoyable experience. Lots of dancing, singing, rapping and impressive costumes.

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Bonhomme’s home for the winter. A giant palace made of ice with lots of fun surprises inside.

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As well as all this you can find 100's more activities scattered across the city. At the Mr. Christie Village you can find sleigh rides, dogsled rides, animation, shows, giant slides, food stalls, ice fishing, saunas and so much more! This was seriously one of the best carnivals I have been to and I will definitely be visiting it again! 

Travel Guide: Québec city

Québec city is a beautiful and charming city. It reminded me strongly of Europe with it’s old buildings, cobblestones streets and French language. The city is one of North America’s oldest settlements and it’s Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Winter the Christmas spirit seems to live on with fairy lights covering everything, the snow and even the decorations left on the street. I went the first time for the Québec  Carnival but when I visited the second time there was still plenty to do!

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Old Town

Every trip to Quebec City should begin with a walk around the Old Town as it was my favourite part of the city. It’s a sprawling network of narrow cobblestone streets laden architecture up to four centuries old at the base of the city. I would recommend wearing comfortable clothes and shoes as although the city is walled in, there is alot of it to walk. The city is very uneven and there are a few small hills trek up. In upper town you can find the Hôtel du Parlement, La Citadelle which sees a changing of the guard ceremony most mornings, and the Plains of Abraham Battlefield Park. In the lower town you can find the Notre Dame des Victoires church, the Musée de la civilisation, and Petit Champlain, the oldest commercial district in North America and foot of the aptly named Breakneck Stairs.

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Musée de la place Royale

The Musée de la place Royale is an interesting museum that shows the history of New France and the Royale. It is located in a charming courtyard in lower town. Admission cost $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $5 for students and 11years and under go free. It’s also good to know that admission is free from 10 till 12 on Saturdays if you visit in January or February. There is also a free cloakroom for all those pesky winter layers

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Château Frontenac

The Château Frontenac was built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1893 as a luxury hotel to attract wealthy travelers and now stands as a landmark institution. The most photographed hotel in the world, the Frontenac can be seen from nearly every vantage point in Old Quebec and it truly is a sight to see

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Musee de la civilisation

The musee de la civilisation, located right off the Place Royale, is an outstanding museum and I would recommend taking your time when you visit as there is a lot to see. There is also a free cloakroom at this museum which I advise using. Admission for adults is $10, seniors is $9, students is $8 and 11years and under go free. It is also free for all on Tuesdays between November 1 and March 31 and from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday in January and February

Life Lessons Learnt From Snowboarding

Whilst I was in Canada I tried snowboarding for the first time. It was a lot of fun and as a longboarder I knew it was going to be something I enjoyed. However, I didn't realise how difficult it was going to be! 

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Snowboarders have this amazing freedom and flow of movement and watching the more experienced riders I was determined to learn. However, I quickly realised that this was not going to be something you can just pick up and do brilliantly, Olympic athletes definitely don’t learn double back-flips overnight without breaking a sweat. But like all great things, it’s worth it! During my lesson while I was listening to the instructor, it occurred to me that a lot of what he was saying could be applied to life. So here are a few things I picked up while learning to snowboard

1. You are going to fall down

When you learn to do any board sport, the first thing you have to learn isn’t how to go or how to stop, it’s how to fall. You are going to fall down and the fear of falling is what stops most people from learning. We are scared of getting hurt and we let that fear hold us back from taking risks or doing the things we could really enjoy.

2. Persist with patience

However after a few falls you realise that it actually isn’t as bad as you thought it was going to be. And even if it was as bad as you thought it was going to be, get back up. Get right back up each and every time you fall.  Be patient and know that within time those falls will happen less and less and you’ll only gain more and more confidence as you ride. Try not to take those falls as a direct hit to the ego either, nobody knows how to everything straight away.

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3. Confidence! 

Attitude and mentality really does mean everything and having confidence changes the way you feel and the way you act. This applies especially when fear, anxiety or risks are involved. Most of my falls happen from mental moments of weakness. Psyching yourself out is a phenomenon that is so common — fear just loves to creep up into the crevices of our minds — yet so easy to fix because your mind has the power to push those fearful thoughts away. Falling over hurts but I know that if I have confidence in my abilities that I’m not going to fall.  I like to envision myself ending it with sheer satisfaction… hitting every turn, every jump with pure ease… helps to regain my confidence. Dare yourself and eventually you will conquer every trail on the mountain

4. Find your rhythm

When you start learning to ride, you don’t have a rhythm or your own “flow.” Flow is the rhythm you obtain from sequentially carving and connecting turns. Once you have the basic mechanics of a turn, your rhythm will naturally develop. When you’ve reached the top of the mountain, strap in and start the descent, your flow will take control and gracefully glide you all the way to the base. My favourite thing is carving, I love the feel of my hips moving and the ease with which the board moves with me. I also like speed. I love the adrenaline and fear of going fast. Once you find your rhythm, confidence will follow and there’s nothing like it!

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5. Embrace your surroundings

When you start learning to ride, you don’t have a rhythm or your own “flow.” Flow is the rhythm you obtain from sequentially carving and connecting turns. Once you have the basic mechanics of a turn, your rhythm will naturally develop. When you’ve reached the top of the mountain, strap in and start the descent, your flow will take control and gracefully glide you all the way to the base. My favourite thing is carving, I love the feel of my hips moving and the ease with which the board moves with me. I also like speed. I love the adrenaline and fear of going fast. Once you find your rhythm, confidence will follow and there’s nothing like it!

6. You can always do better

Some of the best riders I’ve seen never stop pushing themselves to be better. No matter how good you get at something, there are always more things to learn and practice does make perfect. The more you ride, the more you learn, and taking each time you go to the mountain as an opportunity to focus on a new area is one of the best ways to actively improve. That’s not to say that you can’t have fun either!