Author Archives: laurahudspith

Oh, Canada!

Our second to last stop on our whole trip! But what an excellent stop. After a non stop 24 days of road tripping in America, staying in Vancouver has been so relaxing and just like being at home.

We took the super cheap Boltbus from Seattle to Vancouver, which ran an hour late, but was made up for by the free bus wifi and the driver giving us free Jolly Ranchers.

Welcome to Canada

Welcome to Canada

After a year of negotiating our own way around public transport and foreign countries it was amazing to be met off the bus by someone – and a very lovely someone! Last time we saw Rachel she was busy being a bridesmaid at our wedding, so it was amazing and very emotional to see her face at the bus stop.

Happy faces!

Happy faces!

Rachel, Shane and their cat, General Crix Madine (apparently it’s a Star Wars reference), have a really nice flat in Mount Pleasant which we took over with all our stuff for five nights and they very kindly didn’t seem to mind at all.

General Crix Madine

General Crix Madine

We had a lovely few days, catching up, chilling out, seeing Vancouver and eating. Eating a lot.

On day one we hired bikes with Jenny and Andy B and rode around the city and seawall. The weather was perfect (I don’t believe it rains here 8 months of the year) and the city is so lovely – really green and bike friendly. I can really see why you might want to live here. Sam also thinks he saw Bradley Whitford running (Josh from the West Wing), which would make it a very cool place to be. The sighting remains unconfirmed though.

Beach stop in Vancouver

Beach stop in Vancouver

One may only drink from mason jars in Canada

One may only drink from mason jars in Canada

The biker gang

The biker gang

Our long weekend involved eating a lot of delicious food. There are sooooo many places to eat in Vancouver! Food we have eaten included bacon and maple syrup doughnuts, maple syrup waffles, ginormous sushi, Shanes’s vegan avocado pasta (very impressive and delicious), a picnic in the park, pizza in the park, breakfast at Tim Horton’s and of course, the famous Canadian poutine – chips, gravy, cheese and pulled pork. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Who are you calling a vegan?

Who are you calling a vegan?

Bacon: how to make a doughnut even more awesome

Bacon: how to make a doughnut even more awesome

So much sushi

So much sushi

Pizza in the park.

Pizza in the park.

Poutine: a Canadian institution

Poutine: a Canadian institution

We did work some of the food off by taking the ferry to North Vancouver and walking in the woods in Lynn Valley, which was very lovely. Sam even found something to jump off and into to cool down. It’s nice that you can access the great outdoors so easily from the city.

Boat trip!

Boat trip!

Swing bridge selfie

Swing bridge selfie

Sam always finds something to jump off

Sam always finds something to jump off

Swim time

Swim time

Remembering to do our duty in the woods

Remembering to do our duty in the woods

Our weekend was so lovely and relaxed and it was nice to take a break from intensive travelling and sightseeing. And getting to have a go on Shane’s PS4 made Sam pretty happy!

Bye bye Vancouver

Bye bye Vancouver

After saying goodbye to the Canadians we took the ferry over to Vancovuer Island and stayed in the NICEST apartment (with hot tub!) belonging to Shame’s mum in downtown Victoria.

Ferry time

Ferry time

Victoria is the main city on Vancouver Island, and the capital of BC, and is full of gorgeous old buildings right on the harbour. We had a lovely time wandering around the town and the waterfront, shopping and eating more food.

Victoria waterfront

Victoria waterfront

Floating houses in Victoria

Floating houses in Victoria

On our last evening we took an evening kayak tour of the harbour which was brilliant (and half price on a Wednesday – my favourite!) We spent two hours with a guide paddling around the harbour, watching the seals, grey herons and the beautiful sunset.

Kayak selfie

Kayak selfie

Sunset in the Victoria harbour

Sunset in the Victoria harbour

Victoria city hall lit up at night

Victoria city hall lit up at night

We’ve only been here for a week, but we have loved our time in Canada. The people really are that friendly and Vancouver is a really great city. Luckily we know we’ll be back to Vancouver again one day, hopefully soonish, to see Rachel and Shane, and we have plenty more of Canada to explore.

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Categories: Canada | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

If you’re going, to San Francisco…

After leaving Yosemite we headed back to the coast to soak up some NorCal vibes and some of the general entertaining weirdness in sunny Santa Cruz, on our way to San Francisco.

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

It’s a really cool little town, with a pier, a boardwalk and an old school funfair, where I let Sam kick my ass at air hockey.

A tightly fought match

A tightly fought match

I got my revenge by taking him for an American diner experience in a couldn’t-tell-from-the-outside-but-actually-completely-veggie restaurant. Fortunately it was a completely authentic American experience, because we ordered two things from the appetisers menu and this ginormous feast arrived…

Veggie food is healthy so this is acceptable

Veggie food is healthy so this is acceptable

We won’t be going hungry again!

We then had a lovely walk around the West Cliff to watch the expert surfers and sea otters surfing so close to the cliffs. Beautiful, but scary!

Santa Cruz surfers

Santa Cruz surfers

Santa Cruz lighthouse and surf museum

Santa Cruz lighthouse and surf museum

The next day we drove up some more of Highway One’s beautiful coast on our way to San Francisco, stopping for lots of pictures along the way.

Shark Tooth Bay

Shark Tooth Bay

We stayed in a nice and cheap Airbnb in a suburb of SF and spent our first night eating clam chowder on Fisherman’s Wharf out of a sourdough bread bowl (I am definitely going to try this at home when we get back) and visiting the late night Exploratorium, a very cool science museum full of weird and wonderful hands on experiments. Thursday night is adults only and costs just $15 and I think the alcohol only enhanced our scientific understanding.

Mmmmmm chowder

Mmmmmm chowder

The Bionic Sam

The Bionic Sam

I have no idea what I was supposed to learn from this

I have no idea what I was supposed to learn from this

We then had a full day of exploring the city, visiting City Hall (where my cousin got married last year), the really crooked Lombard Street, Jack Keruac Alley, the Beat Museum and Chinatown. And eating some really good Vietnamese sandwiches as recommended by the Lonely Planet. If there is a queue of cool looking people, you know it’ll be good food.

The world's crookedest street

The world’s crookedest street

City Hall

City Hall

One of the biggest tourist attractions in the city is Alcatraz, the former high security prison on an island in the bay, which housed some famous inmates including Al Capone. The tours seem to sell out weeks in advance, but Sam managed to get us some tickets. The boat trip out to the island is pretty cool, with lovely views of the city and bridges.

Alcatraz

Alcatraz

On the island itself we took the really fascinating audio tour of the cell block, narrated by former guards and inmates. The notorious prison closed it’s doors in 1963, but was a really eerie place to be. Apparently it was voted in the Top 25 Scariest Places in the World. The tour definitely had some interesting stories of failed escape attempts, riots and prison life.

An Alcatraz Cell

An Alcatraz Cell

The cell block just 1.25 miles across the water from the city

The cell block just 1.25 miles across the water from the city

Back in the city we decided that, even though San Francisco is famous for being incredibly hilly, we would hire bikes for the day. And also, there was a voucher on Groupon. We cycled round to Golden Gate Park and across the famous bridge itself, around to a cute little town called Sausillito. It was a really fun way to explore these areas, but some of the hills were pretty tiring on the legs!

Golden Gate Selfie

Golden Gate Selfie

That night, we had a final dinner in San Francisco in a local style Mexican restaurant, complete with Mexican soap operas and a Spanish language fist fight between the owners and some disgruntled patrons!

Bueno!

Bueno!

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Yosemite in two days

After Monterey, our next destination was a 3 hour detour from our coastal roadtrip inland, to the Yosemite National Park. When we were planning our trip we weren’t sure if we would have the time, but wow, we are so glad we managed to fit it in!

We arrived at the Yosemite Bug Youth Hostel on Sunday evening, which is about 30 miles from the park itself (and so about half the price), and in a beautiful spot in the woods. Monterey had been a bit chilly, so when we stepped out of the car into the 32 degree heat, it really hit us!

The Yosemite Bug Hostel

The Yosemite Bug Hostel

We hadn’t made any firm plans for what we wanted to see, but Sam kept mentioning an awesome 15 mile hike he had read about. I really wasn’t convinced until I read some of the reviews on the yosemitehikes website, and I had to agree that it sounded brilliant. One guy described it as ‘after you do the Panorama Trail your life will be broken into two parts; before the hike and after it’.

So, we made up our minds to do it straight away and got up at 5am the next day to try and avoid some of the heat.

We're going up where?

We’re going up where?

The first part was a trail called ‘The Four Mile Trail‘ which is actually nearly 5 miles and is all uphill. Starting at the valley floor, we walked steadily for about 3 hours, through beech and then alpine forests, on switchback after switchback. Once we got into the rhythm of it, it felt really good, and we only saw one other group of people the whole way up.

Keep on walking

Keep on walking

As we got higher and higher new vistas would appear around the corner, like Sentinal Dome and El Capitan, and our first look at the famous Half Dome was just incredible.

Sentinel Dome

Sentinel Dome

The views kept getting better and better

The views kept getting better and better

We turned the corner, and POW! Half Dome!

We turned the corner, and POW! Half Dome!

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley

Half Dome and Yosemite Valley

The end of our first trail was at the top of the peak, at Glacier Point, one of the famous look outs that you can also drive to. After stocking up on Gatorade and gummy bears at the shop, we looked at more spectacular views of the whole valley. The walk was definitely worth the payoff!

We made it tot the top selfie!

We made it tot the top selfie!

We then started on the next Trail, The Panorama Trail, which took us down to Illouette Falls and then up a ridge which had a detour to a fantastic view point of the valley, but no railings and a terrifyingly sheer drop, so I couldn’t spend too long there.

Sam gets too close to the edge at Panorama Point

Sam gets too close to the edge at Panorama Point

Getting up close to the wildlife on the Panorama Trail

Getting up close to the wildlife on the Panorama Trail

We climbed some more before dropping down to Nevada Falls for some sausage sandwiches and a paddle in the stream to cool off.

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls

The Trail then took us down a really steep path on the Mist Trail to descend a seemingly endless steep stone staircase right next to the Vernal Falls, before finally, we hit the valley floor again.

Going down

Going down

I think the whole walk was about 15 miles and took us about 8 hours. We were pretty hot and sweaty by the end, but it was such a brilliant introduction to the park. We celebrated with a pint and a chicken burrito back at our hostel.

A well earned pint and burrito

A well earned pint and burrito

The next day my legs were a bit like jelly so we had a bit more of a leisurely start, before heading into the park via the south entrance in order to visit the giant sequoia trees.

The Grisly Giant Sequoia Tree

The Grisly Giant Sequoia Tree

A big ol tree

A big ol tree

The Mariposa Grove is home to some of the largest and oldest trees in the world and they are so gorgeous to walk around in. We did a nice loop around the grove to see some of the star attractions and after a few miles it got nice and crowd-free, and the Forest became wonderfully peaceful.

Peace and quiet in the trees

Peace and quiet in the trees

On the drive back to the valley we stopped at the tunnel viewpoint for some more pictures (I think we managed nearly 300 in two days here!) and then the Bridalveil Falls, which, along with Yosemite Falls, aren’t at their best in the summer as they are nearly completely dry. Never mind, we’ll just have to come back in the spring when the snow melt makes them a spectacular sight.

The vista from Tunnelview

The vista from Tunnelview

Bridalveil Falls, almost completely dry because it's summer

Bridalveil Falls, almost completely dry because it’s summer

After visiting the museum and gift shop in the village we headed out of the park, via a completely isolated bit of the river for a swim!

Cooling off in the river

Cooling off in the river

Yosemite has been one of our absolutely top favourite things we have done this year. And it’s been a pretty awesome year! It is so stunning, and even with the summer-time crowds we could easily get away into the seeming wilderness with a few lovely walks. I’d definitely love to visit Yosemite again.

I LOVE YOSEMITE!!

I LOVE YOSEMITE!!

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Our 9 favourite things about New Zealand

We’ve spent five and a half months travelling and working around New Zealand, been to both islands twice and loved every minute of it! Here is a quick list, off the top of our heads, of why we’ve loved it:

1. It’s so beautiful
There are mountains everywhere! And incredible lakes, beaches, forests, rivers, waterfalls, gorges. The whole country is just stunning.

2. It’s not too big and not too small
You can get from one end to the other fairly easily and it’s packed with good stuff to see!

3. The accent

4. There’s no one here!
Well hardly anyone, relatively speaking. There are only 4ish million people in New Zealand, compared to the UK’s 63 million. We have been to so many beautiful and interesting places where we are the only ones there.

5. The New Zealand Frenzy Guidebook
This book is the most awesome guide book ever. It’s full of free, off the beaten track type activities and we have used it everywhere we have been.

6. Helpx
We’ve seen and done things and met people we’d never have experienced otherwise; including sheep shearing, wall building, motorbike riding, cow mustering, fruit picking and of course, scrubbing!

7. The DoC
Everywhere you go, in the towns or in the middle of nowhere, you can usually rely on there being a green and yellow Department of Conservation sign leading to a walk, waterfall, tramp, view or something awesome.

8. It’s actually Middle Earth
Excluding a few towers and citadels, New Zealand looks pretty much exactly like it does in the Trilogy. We should know, we’ve been to ALOT of film locations.

9. The people
People here are so welcoming, laid back and nice. Strangers say hello to you in the street (in a nice way, not a crazy way).

New Zealand is the best!

New Zealand is the best!

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Bye bye New Zealand

For 2 years we’ve been planning our epic trip to New Zealand, and tomorrow we say goodbye. Nooooooo! We were originally planning 10 months here, and although we’ve ended up shortening that and adding lots of Asian fun at the beginning and a USA road trip at the end, NZ still seemed like the main destination for us. So it seems weird and sad to be leaving, even though we still have 7 exciting weeks left.

Cooking up a good feed for our anniversary

Cooking up a good feed for our anniversary

We’ve had a brilliant last week here though, which included celebrating our first wedding anniversary in a little farm cottage in the countryside near Waimate. It was one of my favourite houses we’ve seen here (I still can’t quite get my head around wooden architecture) and we had a lovely few days chilling out together, eating quality cheese and watching our wedding video. We are are definitely very lucky to still be on our honeymoon!

My favourite house in Kiwiland

My favourite house in Kiwiland

Year long honeymoons are the best!

Year long honeymoons are the best!

After leaving Waimate and saying hello to the resident wallabies, we spent a night in Timaru, before driving to the Banks Peninsula and staying in the very French influenced town of Akaroa. The town is in an extinct volcano and has a beautiful harbour, and some lovely little streets and shops to wander around.

Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula

Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula

We did some easy walks and took a scenic drive around the peninsula and along the crater ridge which had some spectacular views.

Driving around the rim of the extinct volcano

Driving around the rim of the extinct volcano

We even treated ourselves to some beersies to watch the sunset with.

An Akaroa sunset

An Akaroa sunset

We are spending our last night in New Zealand in Christchurch with Martine and Tim, some very distant relatives who very kindly put us up twice during our stay. And tomorrow we fly to Fiji to enjoy some sunshine, snorkelling and turning 29…!

Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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