Tuesday, October 7, 2014

10 Things to Do in Los Angeles for FREE

(Post not finished yet - baby got in the way!)

In 2014, I got the chance to stay in LA for 10 days at a friends house and check out the area. She had just moved there and was eager to show me around and explore the area herself. We were staying in West Hollywood and had a car so that made things easier too. I highly recommend renting a car when exploring LA.

Here are my favourite 10 things to do for free and a few things below the list that are low cost but amazing experiences too!

Relax at a Rooftop Pool
A few of the pools in LA are open to guests AND non-guests. This is very different to what I have experienced in other cities (usually you need a room key to enter pool area). Not only do they let you swim, but you can use chairs, towels and get food/drink service to your pool chair! Most pools seemed to open around noon, so we went around 12:30/1 to get chairs. We also got a light lunch and some drinks. The lunch was surprisingly cheap but drinks were a bit pricey. Either way, this is a great afternoon activity on a hot summer day! Check out The Standard Downtown - we also LOVED The Standard in Hollywood - lots of palm trees surround the pool :)

Hike to the Hollywood Sign
Everyone has grown up seeing the "Hollywood" sign in movies and TV shows and now if your chance to check it out in person. There are tons of hikes around this area and make have a great view of the sign. Unfortunately, the parking area closest to the sign is now closed due to neighbours complaining about the traffic. We did a hike that was about an hour and didn't get too close (as you can see in photo). If you have 2-3 hours, you can do a hike that gets right up close to it.

Visit Santa Monica Pier
A great place to stroll along, check out the mini amusement park, listen to buskers and enjoy the beach. A must do!

Relax at a Malibu Beach
If you want to escape the city and relax for the day, nothing is better than El Dorado Beach in Malibu. It is quiet, easy to get to and gorgeous. Remember to check the tide chart, because during high tide, the beach can get very small.

Check out The Last Bookstore
This bookstore in Downtown LA is something out of Harry Potter. It sits inside an old 2-story building and is filled to the brim with new and used books. Within minutes we each had a book and they were $5 each. Much less expensive than any other bookstore I have been to. Make sure to explore the upper level called the Labyrinth with over 100,000 books that are all $1 each! More details here. 
  1. Do a Free Trial at a Fancy Gym
  2. Hike Runyon Canyon at Sunset
  3. Be a tourist at Venice Beach
  4. Spend the Day at a Hollywood Pool
  5. Sunset at Venise or SM P
Or for a small amount:
  • Outdoor Movie in a Hollywood Cemetery 
  • Jay Leno Stand-Up

Monday, September 1, 2014

What to do with 2-4 weeks in Australia?

A summer day in Noosa
A few of my friends are planning trips to Australia in the next few years and have been asking me what to do and where to go. Here are a few of my "must-sees" and you can get more information about each place at http://www.queenslandholidays.com.au/

I will start and end the trip in Sydney to make it easier to get around. Add or remove days as you see fit. Email me if you have any more questions! I'm sure you will :)

  • Fly into Sydney - Usually this is the best place to fly into since it has so many flights everyday. You can also fly into Brisbane is you plan on skipping Sydney all together.
  • Chose your transport -  You can do the rental thing: Rent a car or a van and make your way up the east coast by yourself. Some vans come with camping gear and you can sleep in them and eat meals this way too. If you want the road trip experience, do this. Otherwise fly to places and take cabs and buses. 
  • Sydney (2-3 days) - There is lots to see and do in Sydney but you don't want to stay too long. I would spend your first day hanging out in town and exploring (you will be jet lagged!), check out the Opera House, The Rocks (cool area w good food), Bondi Beach, etc. On day 2, take the ferry to Manly Beach, spend the day checking out the beach and ocean side cafes. Time your ferry home with sunset. You will get an incredible view of the Sydney Opera House on the way back. Leave in the morning. 

  • Fly or Drive up the Coast (1 day) - Flight should be about $100 and drive would take about 15 hours. There are some great things to see along the way but won't make sense if you only have 2-3 weeks. (Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, etc)
  • Brisbane (1-2 days) - This is where I live! You can easily spend a week here but with everything else to see, you will want to keep moving... There are literally 100's of things to do here: Click here I would spend the day walking around town, check out South Bank (a man-made beach in the middle of town), check out some great restaurants and visit me! If you have more time, check out North Stradbroke Island or Moreton Island. 

  • Surfers Paradise (1-2 days) - If you are under 25 and love dance clubs, strip clubs and staying out all night, this place is for you! Kind of like Miami but in Australia. High rise apartments lining the beach and lots of great night life. If you don't care for this type of thing, skip the place all together. 
  • The Zoo (1 day) - You have a few choices for the zoo. You can go BIG. The Steve Irwin Australia Zoo is like Disneyland for Zoo's... big and touristy. Or go small. Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is very small, quiet but still has what you need. Both have a place to pet kangaroos and you can hold koalas at both too. 

  • Noosa (2-3 days) - This is where Nathan is from and where we met back in '04. I lived here for 4 months back then and it was amazing. This is a great place to take a surf lesson and explore for a few days. Some of the best beaches and hikes in Australia are here. If it is good weather, you will never want to leave. Spend a day walking through the National Park, you will pass through about 5 beaches that are never packed and you will feel like you are in a postcard. (ask me how to find the secret beach) Have dinner along Noosa River and take in one of the best sunsets you will see! oh and have brunch on Hasting Street with an ocean view. 

  • Fraser Island (2-3 days) - Do a group camping trip for 3 days if you are up for an amazing, camping experience. You will have all your food provided and a guide to help you get around. If you are not into camping, stay at Kingfisher Resort and do a day trip around Island. But the camping is the best for sure. See the best lake in the world - Lake Mackenzie and some of the most beautiful spots only viewable in the 4 wheel drive vehicle you will have. Such an incredible experience. 

  • Cape Hillsborough (1 day) - This beach is close to the town of Mackay. It has the most amazing sunrises where kangaroos come out and play on the beach. I haven't been here yet but want to go check this out sooo bad!

  • Whitsunday Islands (2-3 days) - If you want an amazing experience, do the 3 day sailing trip around the islands. You will snorkel, sail, eat and sleep on the sailboat. You will visit the world famous Whitehaven Beach (best beach in world) which you can only get to by boat. If you aren't up for long sailing trip, do a 1 day sailing excursion to Whitehaven instead or stay on Hamilton Island Resort. 

  • Great Barrier Reef (2-3 days) - Head up to Cairns to snorkel or scuba dive on the great barrier reef. You can do amazing day trips out of Cairns to see some of the best reef in the world. 

  • Fly Back to Sydney (1 day)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Walking from Canada to Australia

In January, my boyfriend and I moved from Canada to Australia. I wanted to create something that would capture the difference in climate, the excitement of the move and some footage from our adventure. 

We started in my hometown of London, Canada and traveled all through Panama and ended up in his hometown of Noosa, Australia. I shot one second from each day on my iPhone and put this together. 

Let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tulip Festival in Agassiz, BC

Every year in Agassiz, BC, thousands of tulips go on display for the public to see. These festivals happen all over the world and are absolutely breathtaking to see. I first saw photos on Instagram and did some research that led me to Agassiz. It was only about an hour from Vancouver so made for a good day trip.

Facts on the Agassiz Tulips of the Valley Festival:

  • This will be the 9th year of the festival
  • There are 14 hectares of tulip fields
  • There are over 20 different varieties of tulips on the fields
  • Up to 3,000 visitors can come on a busy day
  • Tulips can be purchased on site as well as local crafts and a farmers market
  • The 2014 festival might be over May 1st, try to get there this week! :)

Tips for going to the Tulip Festival:

  • Research - The tulips are only in full bloom for 1-3 weeks so do your research before making plans. The Agassiz Festival posts all info on their Facebook Page 
  • Check the weather - Photos won't be as good if you get rain or overcast skies... make sure to check before you go
  • Battery and Memory - Ensure you have plenty of battery power and memory for your cameras and phones before going. It's waaaay too beautiful to miss out. 
  • Bring cash - parking is $5, entry is $3 and there are great local products to buy to support the farm
  • Avoid the Crowds - Go early. Check what time it opens and aims to get there then. The worst thing would be to wait in line all day in your car. I heard they even had to turn people away last weekend because too many showed up at the same time.
  • Have fun! :)

 For my FULL Flickr Album click here.  (a sample of photos below)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

12 Things You Must Do In Bali

In 2011, I went to Bali for two weeks and absolutely loved it. The people are amazing, the beaches are beautiful, the food is delicious and it's all super cheap. Here are some tips for the things we loved. All the photos are mine unless noted underneath. For the full photo album from Bali, click here. 

Tanah Lot Temple at Sunset 

A gorgeous temple that is located in the ocean, close enough so you can walk there when the tide is low. When tide is high, it is surrounded by water. We visited at sunset and it was just beaitiful. There are quite a few tourist shops around so you can buy snacks, drinks, etc. More info: Tanah Lot Wiki Site

Monkey Forest
You can find Monkey Forest in Ubud. This area of Bali is far from any beaches and home to lush forests and rice fields. It is a spiritual place and was where she stayed in "Eat, Pray, Love". Monkey Forest is free to visit and you can walk around see tons of monkeys. Just be careful, they do like to grab things! More info: Monkey Forest Website

Seafood Dinner on the Beach in Jimbaran Bay
There are tons of restaurants located along the sand that are set up for dinner at sunset. You will be so close to the ocean, that you will have the water sweeping over your feet at you eat. We did this twice and paid waaaay too much the first time. Then we learned the best spot was Menega Cafe which offered amazing seafood and was really cheap. You can actually see the seafood all lined up and pick what you want! Full seafood meal for 2 people (incl Lobster) was about $20 USD. Unreal. More info: Jimbaran Wiki Site

Photos from: http://biyo2011.wordpress.com/category/about-bali/
There are TONS of beaches for surfing in Bali and they offer everything from beginner waves to ridiculous pro surfing quality waves. You can either walk to the waves, rent a scooter for the day or hire a driver. All the options are very cheap.

Visit the Rice Fields

We actually tried to find these rice fields for an entire day. We probably should have stopped to ask someone.... but we didn't. We want to find something that looked like the photo on the front of our guide book for Bali (we are dorks!). We rented a scooter in Ubud and finally found them at the end of the day. There was even a local man there who charged $1 for photos with him... it was worth it. More info: Trip Advisor Rice Terraces

Echo Beach Sunday Night

Every Sunday at Echo Beach they have a live band and a seafood BBQ. This means you can walk up a huge layout of fresh-caught seafood and pick what you want them to grill for you. Then you get to devour this fresh seafood with amazing cocktails (try the ) and listen to a great band as the sunsets. Not much is better than that. More info: Echo Beach Website 

Rent a Scooter
We were VERY apprehensive to do this at first because of the craziness of the Bali streets. It is very scary. But after a few days we decided it would be the best bet to get around. They change less than $5 USD/day for the rental. Just remember to always get a good helmet and be VERY careful.

Rock Bar at Sunset

I celebrated my birthday in Bali and we decided to try out The Rock Bar for birthday drinks and apps. It is situated on the edge of a cliff with ocean views all around it. The only thing to remember for this place is that it isn't cheap. The drinks and food is pricey but definitely worth it to splurge on this one. Call ahead to see if you can reserve a table and make sure to stay for an unbelievable sunset. More info: Rock Bar Website

Try the Local Cuisine 
I absolutely LOVED the food in Bali. Here are some of my favourites: Nasi Goreng (pictured above) - Fried Rice topped with an egg, Chicken Satay - marinated chicken on a stick with peanut sauce, TONS of fresh seafood, pancakes - more like crepes with bananas or mangos, Fruit drinks - fresh fruit mixed with ice and some sugar (my favs were watermelon and pineapple) and of course fresh coconuts with a straw!

Temple at Uluwatu 
This temple is located on the edge of a cliff and offers amazing views. You have to wear a traditional sarong when entering the temple, so it's a bit more traditional than some of the other tourists spots. Watch out for the monkey's here! They like to steal your cold drinks and cameras if you aren't careful. Close by you will find Padang-Padang Beach which is gorgeous white sand and clear water, a must do as well! More info: Trip Advisor Uluwatu

Get A Beach Massage
I am a sucker for a good massage. In Bali they are unbelievably cheap. In town, you can get a full hour massage for $5 USD. We did that a few times! Also, on the beach, they come right up to your beach chair and offer you massages. (you don't even need to move!) These ones run about $5 for 20 minutes but you can always barter with them. Oh man, I miss this SO much :)

Drinks at Ku De Ta
Photos from http://indonesia.travel/forum/
One of my biggest regrets is that we didn't get to check out this beach front restaurant. We were headed there one night but were too tired and didn't make it. We will definitely have to check it out next time we are in Bali! More info: Ku De Ta Website

Monday, March 24, 2014

25 Incredible Documentaries on Netflix

"There is NEVER anything good on Netflix" is something I hear people say all the time. I have to disagree. While they are lacking in new releases, they make up for it in older movies, classic TV series' and documentaries. I am a huge fan of biographies, documentaries and pretty much any true stories. Below I have listed 25 documentaries that I have watched in the last few years on Netflix. Since the movie rights have certain limitations per region and year, they may not all be available to you right now. (but I'm sure most will if you are in Canada)

I have put a few of my favourite ones at the top of the list and as you move down, you will find that there are some that are more 'light'. Save those for the nights where you don't want to watch something as heavy. With this list, you can watch a new movie almost every night for a month. Not bad Netflix.

25 Documentaries on Netflix:
  • God Grew Tired of Us - Story of the "Lost Boys" who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from war in Sudan. 
  • Exit Through The Gift Shop - An inside look at 'street art', vandalism and a really famous guy with a secret identity named Banksy. 
  • No Impact Man - A family in New York City attempt a full year in an apartment while making no impact on the environment. This means no power, no fridge, no toilet paper. 
  • Big River Man - The story of an endurance swimmer from Slovenia who make's an insane attempt at swimming the entire length of the amazon river. The best part is, he is overweight, in his 50's and drinks 2 bottles of red wine a day... even when swimming.  I seriously thought this was a mockumentary after watching, but it is real, he is real. A must watch.
  • Blackfish - A controversial movie about how whales are treated at Seaworld. Not sure if it's still available but check out the website to find out more info. Very sad for animal lovers.
  • Gasland - The movie focuses on communities in the US impacted by natural gas drilling, specifically 'fracking'.   
  • Bobby Fisher Against the World - The story of his life from a troubled childhood to his rock star status as a world chess champion to his life as a fugitive.   
  • We Live in Public - The crazy story of Josh Harris who started a live audio and video webcasting website in 1993. His ideas were pretty much the first ever reality TV/Web shows.
  • Young at Heart - Heartwarming story of a group of senior citizens who have formed a choir and sing covers of Jimi Hendrix, Coldplay, Sonic Youth and many other unexpected artists. 
  • Craigslist Joe - Follows Joe as he tries to live for one month where everything in his life has to come from the Craigslist website. All he starts with is a laptop, cell phone, toothbrush and clothes on his back.   
  • Vegucated - The story follows 3 meat loving New Yorkers who attempt to go Vegan for 6 weeks. A real eye opener for anyone concerned about weight and health.
  • Life 2.0 - Takes you behind the scenes of the virtual world Second Life to see how people get addicted to the 'game' and how it affects their lives. 
  • Teenage Paparazzo - Chronicles the relationship of a 14 yr old paparazzo and actor Adrian Grenier (Vinnie from Entourage)
  • Sons of Perdition - Behind the scenes look into the lives of teenagers exiled from their families and community by Warren Jeffs and the FLDS Church (aka cult)    
  • Hungary for Change - Exposes secrets the diet, weight loss and food industries don't want you to know about strategies designed to keep you coming back for more.  
  • The Whale - True story of a young, wild killer whale who lost contact with his family on the coast of BC and turned up alone in a narrow stretch of sea called Nootka Sound.  
  • Waiting for Superman - The film analyses the failures of the American public education system by following several students trying to get into a charter school.    
  • Being Elmo - Follower Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo, the Sesame Street character. (after I saw this, news came out about Kevin's private life that was very shocking)    
  • Short Game - An in-depth look at the best 7 year old golfers in the world and how they handle the pressure and lifestyle. 
  • Venus & Serena - An inside look at the lives of the sisters from birth as their father groomed them to become the best in the world. 
  • Usain Bolt - Shot over 7 months, the doc takes a unique look at the Olympic champion from his hometown to his life on the road.   
  • Woody Allen - Follows the notoriously private film legend for over a year and a half and shares his life story. Including how he has made a film almost every single year since 1965. 
  • Becoming Chaz - Documents Chaz's (Cher's son) journey through gender transition and how his family and friends are dealing with the changes.  
  • Never Say Never - Yes, this is a Justin Bieber story, but I think it is a lot more than that. It showcases how Scooter Braun found Justin on YouTube at age 13 and used social media to help propel him to be one of the biggest pop stars on the planet. Anyone interested in marketing and digital media should watch this movie. 
If you have any suggestions for me, list them in the comments and I will add!


Monday, March 17, 2014

Cuddling Koalas in Australia

Last week I was lucky to be given a chance to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and cuddle with one of the cutest animals on earth. I was able to see them being fed, go inside the enclosure to take photos and also cuddle with one for a photo!

Here are some facts about koalas:

  • Koala's aren't actually bears. They are called Koala Bears since they look like Teddy Bears, they are actually a marsupial mammal.
  • There are only 2,000-8,000 koalas left in the wild
  • Koala's can sleep for up to 19 hours a day!
  • They live, sleep and eat in Eucalyptus trees
  • They eat up to 1KG of Eucalyptus leaves each day, this doesn't provide much energy, so that is why they sleep so much
  • There are over 800 different species of Eucalyptus leaves but Koala's will only eat 50 of them

The setting at Lone Pine is perfect for learning about and seeing all the animals. It's a smaller sanctuary so it doesn't take as long to get around and doesn't have an many tourists to fight through. I went at the very beginning of the day so there was hardly anyone there. Midday on the weekends can be busier but weekdays are great if you like a quieter experience.

Here are some facts about the Koala's at Lone Pine:
  • They have approx 130 koala's
  • They are split up into Boys (teenaged), Kindergarten (toddlers) and Retirement (older ones)
  • Lone Pine has 4 eucalyptus plantations around Brisbane. Each day 2 leaf cutters visit one of them and cut 3/4 of a tonne of leaves for the koalas
  • They have a strict policy about how long each koala works (pose in photos with people) They aren't allowed to work longer than 3 hours a day and no more than 3 days a week.
  • Queensland is the only state in Australia that let's you cuddle koala's. You won't be able to experience this in Melborne or Sydney!
  • There were photos on the wall of all the celebrities that have come and held koala's here. They included: Pope John Paul II, John Travolta, Queen Mother, Janet Jackson, Eric Clapton, Taylor Swift, Marilyn Manson and many more.

Special thanks to Lone Pine & Tourism Queensland for this awesome experience!

Check out their sites here:

Here are some more photos from Lone Pine: