33 Hours in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

I’ve been to Edmonton a handful of times but never branched outside of my hotel quarters. My work decided to plant me in Edmonton the day after the LA Kings play the Edmonton Oilers so i was left to search for new fun alternatives.

Where To Stay: Sandman Signature
My company put us in the Sandman Signature Hotel Edmonton South. The hotel is far from downtown but the room is incredible. The concierge assistant gave us two room options: the king suite or the loft. Both rooms offer a full kitchenette, a living room area, a laundry space, and a bathroom. The only difference is that the loft offers a king size bed on the top floor and the king suite offers everything on one floor. As enticing as the loft room was, i opt in for the king suite for easy access to the washroom during the late night.2015-10-26 00.50.172015-10-26 00.50.292015-10-26 00.50.47

Getting Around

Edmonton offers a great public transportation system if you wish to go to the downtown area. I like the freedom of a car so i rented a car at Enterprise located right around the corner of the hotel. I rented an intermediate car for $44CAD.

Where to Go: Elk Island National Park

My first thought was to rent a car and drive down to Banff. After visiting their website, I’ve discovered that many of the attractions were closed for the transitional month. I’m in Canada so there has to be a National Park nearby. I came across the Elk Island National Park, which is only 45 minutes away from Edmonton! Entry fee is about $20CAD for a group. Payment can be paid at the Information Office or at the kiosk at the entrance.

We drove up to the National Park and came across 2 types of bisons: Plain and Wood bisons. We drove around the Bison Loop hoping to see some bisons up close but there were none in sight. We did see a few bisons as they roam across the street.

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There are also a few beaver dams around the park. We saw how intricate each dam was. They were made with mud and different tree parts.

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My only disappointment was that I didn’t see any elks or moose. They come out at night and the park closes at 4pm.

The plus side was that it was Monday so nobody was around. We had the park to ourselves!

Where to Eat: Gondola’s Steak and Pizza

If you love to visit small towns and enjoy their local food, i recommend Gondola’s Steak and Pizza. The food is like any other diner but we were here for the experience. We were out of towners and they knew that. I ordered the poutine and mango wings. Both were delicious. Our server was new… i think because she had to check back with the cooks to see what was in each entree but she was very attentive and kind. 2015-10-26 14.11.02

Where to Drink: The Canadian Brewhouse

We drove back to Edmonton in the late evening. We went to The Canadian Brewhouse, a relaxing place with great decor. The stairway rails were made with hockey sticks, art creations were made with different beer cans and bottle caps. There is even a photo of Donald Trump with his hidious hair! It was also happy hour so bud light and ribs were at a discounted rate! Definitely come here to unwind. Screen shot 2015-10-29 at 8.02.07 PM

Overall, my 33 hour stay in Edmonton was great. I’ll be back in November and maybe I’ll post more about my adventures in Edmonton. Any recommendations on what to do next?

UnBELIZEable: 5 Must-Do’s in Caye Caulker

Caye Caulker, a limestone coral island off the coast of Belize is one of the biggest tour attractions in 2013. The view is incredible, the accommodations are cheap and the food is delicious. I decided to take a small vacation to Belize in early July 2014. I was only there for 3 days but I never wanted to leave.

To Get to Caye Caulker from Belize City:

Take a cab from Belize City airport to the water taxis. For 2 passengers, we paid $25usd. There are set departure times so you might have to wait a few hours. We spent the time eating local cart foods and shopping at nearby markets. The ferry taxi to Caye Caulker was about an hour. DSC_0899

Booking a Room on the Island:

A friend of mine told me that when you arrive on the island, someone will approach you about accommodations. I was a bit skeptic but decided to listen to her. She was correct. A man asked us if we had a place to stay. We told him that we didn’t and he showed us 3 properties: his uncles place right in front of the beach for only $30usd a night, a place more inland for $35usd a night and we had him take us to a hotel that my friends had stayed at. We decided to stay at his uncles place since it was cheap, better location, and wonderful view. DSC_0911

5 Must Do’s In Caye Caulker

1) Snorkeling

One of the most popular things to do in Caye Caulker is snorkeling because of the clear water and the nearby reefs. There are several snorkeling tours located on the island. Prices range from $25 to $35 USD for a half day. You will be able to see vibrant color fishes, low swimming sting-rays, and non-violent nurse sharks. If you’re lucky, you could be swimming with turtles and manatees! My package didn’t include a photographer so make sure you bring those water cameras if you want to document this exciting, thrilling experience.

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2) Kayaking

I love kayaking. It’s relaxing and peaceful. I rented a Kayak for about $12bz for 2 hours. During the 2 hours, we stumbled upon a resident’s paradise. The property included beachfront beds, couches, and even hammocks. We docked in and hopped off hoping to ask if we could swing on their hammocks. The resident arrived shortly after. He was a kind gentlemen who allowed us to spend a couple of minutes in his heaven. He said that it’s rare that he sees travelers on his island but that he enjoys the company.

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3) Enjoy Happy Hour

Every day felt like Happy Hour in Caye Caulker. Drinks were cheap cheap cheap! But during the hours of 4pm to 8pm, 2 local drinks for the price of 1! A price of a regular drink is $7bz which is equivalent to $3.50usd. DSC_0912IMG_5382

4) Enjoy the Split

The Split is a channel between the North and South Cayes ( the North Caye is mostly uninhabited). Even though, Caye Caulker is an island, it doesn’t have a “real” beach. Most travelers and locals come out to the Split to swim on the island and sunbathe on the boardwalk.DSC_0933IMG_5389

5) Enjoy a Fresh Coconut

No beach destination is complete without enjoying a fresh coconut. Our guy chopped our coconut with a machete!!! He even managed to slice his skin off the week before, still recover, and still chopping away! Coconuts were delicious and refreshing!DSC_0926IMG_5465

What are your favorite things to do in Caye Caulker?

Review: IcelandAir: Boeing 757-200: KEF to JFK

I enjoy traveling on different airlines to see what each has to offer. I decided to review each airline that I have the pleasure of riding. My first review is my journey on IcelandAir’s Boeing 757- 200 series from Keflavík International Airport (KEF) to New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK).

Check In:

Checking in process is efficient. You enter the airport and there are several kiosk located from wall to wall. When checking in via kiosk, you are able to print out a tag for your checked bag. After you check in, you proceed to the baggage drop off line. The line is relatively quick. The agent will weigh your bag and point you to your way.

If you are like me who only fly standby, you proceed to the bag drop off line. You will not be able to check in via kiosk.

If you are flying Saga, AKA business class, there is a separate line for you.

Terminal Gates:

There are tons of food and shops located towards the Security and Terminal. I spent my last few krónas purchasing drinks and souvenirs.

Security:

Security is quick and easy however, if you are not from the EU, you must go through another security line. The 2nd security line, AKA immigration line will open about an hour before your flight.

Boarding the plane:

There are no zones or organized way to board the plane. Passengers line up in a semi- single file line to enter the plane. Once you enter the plane, you are greeted by a lovely flight attendant who hands you a mini Icelandic Glacier water bottle.

Cabin:

I sat in the Economy cabin which offered more leg room than most airlines that I’ve been on. The seats were surprisingly comfortable. I was able to drift off to sleep a few times during the 5.5 hour flight. The cabin is 3X3 but if you’re seated in the Economy Comfort, the middle seat is block off for a shared table.

Entertainment:

The safety video was entertaining. IcelandAir took advantage of Iceland’s beautiful nature for their safety video. You can watch the video below:

As for entertainment, IcelandAir offers a handful of free movies, TV shows, and music. It is not as ample as most American airlines but it will keep you entertained during the short flight. Also, to promote Iceland, you must view all their ads before you can proceed to the entertainment.

Service:

IcelandAir offers 2 beverage service during the flight. Beverages are free (some destinations, you will have to pay a small fee). IcelandAir encourages their passengers to keep their cups to reuse for the next beverage service however, they are not enforced.

Meals in Economy class are all buy on board. I purchased 3 mini sliders (2cm X 2cm) for 1500kr, about $12USD. A bit too steep for me but the sliders were actually pretty decent. Cards, Kronas, and Euros are excepted for purchases. Young travellers will receive a meal on the house. Economy Comfort and Saga class also receive complimentary meals.

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Flight Attendants:

The flight attendants were all polite, friendly, and well groomed. IcelandAir also allows their crews to wear open toed shoes.

Notes:

Iceland went through a harsh recession. To help their economy, IcelandAir started offering a 7 day stopover from USA to Europe. If you fly from the States to any European country, you can stopover in Iceland for 7 days (or less) for absolutely free! I highly recommend taking IcelandAir simply for this!

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Overall: 4/5 Stars

The short journey was comfortable. The stews were friendly and attentive. IcelandAir loses a star for no meals for an international flight.

Iceland Diary: Road Trip from Reykjavik to Snæfellsjökull

Sunday 27 September 2015

It’s 9am and we have packed our vehicle and heading towards a glacier at the westernmost point of Iceland, Snæfellsjökull. Snæfellsjökull is only a 2.5 hours drive but the drive is difficult due to the rough and harsh gravel roads. Although, you don’t need a 4X4 to get up to Snæfellsjökull, I strongly advise that you do. We had a large 2 wheel drive but it was enough to scare us off of our boots. What if our wheels popped? What if we drove off road? Anything seemed possible.

Our vehicle for the day.

Our vehicle for the day.

The drive to Snæfellsjökull started off easy. We drove through the peninsula, with waves crashing on the shore towards our left and on our right, large towering mountains. The mountains were covered in waterfalls. We were excited. We wanted to pull over and just hike any waterfall that we see.

The peninsula

The peninsula

The view

The view

We chose a random waterfall that had a small driveway and decided to climb up. The water fall had no barricade except for 2 strings like a caution tape on the bottom portion of the fall. We climbed through the wet green marsh til we could see the top of the waterfall. The fall was vicious and we could feel the heavy mist spraying against our bodies. It was bloody cold. After the short hike, we said our farewell and continued our way through Snæfellsjökull.

Waterfall on the mountain.

Waterfall on the mountain.

Can't stop looking at this view.

Can’t stop looking at this view.

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With my new Czech friend, Carol.

We drove through the roads and see the temperature drastically changed. it was raining and we didn’t see the roads getting any better. We hit a road with 3 directions. We chose the road with the shortest distance. It started to snow but we saw our glacier. We pulled over and snapped a few photos before we started to freeze. As we came around the mountain, we could see the beach from the distance. How many destinations can you see the mountains, volcanos, glacier and the beach in one setting? It’s a rare occasion!

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We drove back towards the beach hoping to dip our feet in the water for a bit. We wound up in a gas station dining in their convenient store area. I ordered a basket of wings which was surprisingly decent. We continued back on the road. Although we didn’t get to dip our feet in the water, we did get to see waves crash against the cliffs. It was beautiful. It resembles the famous Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, only this cliff was black and jagged. It was getting dark, so we decided to head back.

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The drive home was easy. I arrived back in Reykjavik around 6:30pm.

Tips:

  • There are no washroom stops on this path. There are few vehicles so let nature be your biggest restroom.
  • There is a toll road that you must take for 1000kr each way that takes you through an under water tunnel. If you do not wish to take the toll, you can drive around the ocean. It will take about 30-40 minutes longer.
  • Pack accordingly. The weather does change drastically.

Route:

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Reykjavik, Iceland: Driving the Golden Circle

The Golden Circle tour is one of the most popular routes out of Reykjavik, Iceland. It can cost you up to 12,000kr, which is approximately $95USD. You can save some cash by driving there yourself.

Car Rental:

We rented a car with Thrifty for about 9,000kr a day for an automatic transmission vehicle with GPS. When renting a vehicle, make sure you have a credit card available. Debit cards and cash will not be accepted. It is very important to get insurance due to the change in weather and the gravel roads that is all over Iceland. (Post to come: driving rules in Iceland). You can find the route to the Golden Circle here.

Our little mini red car.

Our little mini red car.

Preparation:

Make sure you pack accordingly. Stop by a local grocery store to stock up on water, sandwiches, and toilet paper. There will be little civilization once you leave Reykjavik which means no food or washroom. There are information desk along the route if you wish to hold off til than.

Route:

Stop #1: Þingvellir National Park (also spelled Thingvellir because the Þ is pronounce as a TH)

Þingvellir National Park is a UNESCO site where you can see evidence of this tectonic activity in canyons, rift valleys and a rift lake. The National Park is only a 45 minutes drive out of Reykjavik. If driving from Reykjavík, take route 1 via Mosfellsbaer. From there take route 36 which runs through Þingvellir. There are limited signs but Þingvellir has its own street sign. Entrance to the National Park is free.

Couldn't find a map that tells us where we are at.

Couldn’t find a map that tells us where we are at.

Trying to see what's below when I'm afraid of heights.

Trying to see what’s below when I’m afraid of heights.

My friend Mike walking through the ridge

My friend Mike walking through the ridge

View from the top of the ridge.

View from the top of the ridge.

Stop #2: Geysir

Þingvellir to the Geysir is about another 45 minute drive. There are several Geysir in this location however, only 1 Geysir, the Strokkur, is active and sprouts ever 8-10 minutes. The other geysir only erupts during circumstances such as an earthquake. We watched the Strokkur shoot up about 15-20 meters above us. After a few eruption, my partner in crime and I walked up the red mountain to see the view from above. It was a neat experience.

The symbol on the top left indicates point of interest. Stop over when you see them.

The symbol on the top left indicates point of interest. Stop over when you see them.

Explains Geysirs

Explains Geysirs

Geysirs can go up to as high as 100C.

Geysirs can heat up to as high as 100C.

You can see the Little Geysir bubbling but no eruptions.

You can see the Litli Geysir bubbling but no eruptions.

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Strokkur eruption from a far.

Stop #3: Gullfoss (Golden Falls)

After the Geysir, we took a 15 minute drive to Gullfoss, our last main stop of the day. Gullfoss, which translate to the Golden Falls, is listed as a natural wonder of the world and it’s the largest waterfall I’ve ever witnessed. The fall is very aggressive. Geologists believe that the fall was formed from a flood from a glacier outburst during the end of the Ice Age. Before stopping at the main Gullfoss, make a pit stop at the outlook and you can see incredible views without the crowds.

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Our pit stop before the main Gullfoss.

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The fall had a mint color tint.

Beautiful fall.

Beautiful fall.

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Small portion of the fall.

The complete tour took us a full day. We left Reykjavik around 11:30am and arrived back into the city around 8pm. We made several pit stops to admire all the free roaming animals (sheep, goats, horses), and to admire all the beautiful scenic views. The drive back to Reykjavik was quite scary. The roads were dark, wet, and we had to drive between two cones. Visibility was limited and found ourselves driving extremely slow. Be careful and keep your eyes on the road. Other than that, have fun! Iceland is full of places to see and explore!

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany: Prepping & What To Expect

It takes some planning and preparation for the ultimate Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. Last year, I didn’t anticipate the large expenses that I would endure during my short stay there but with some preplanning, you can save a dollars.

Accommodations:

Book your stay as early as possible. Hotels can range from $200 to $700 a night! Do your research. My friends and I booked an apartment on AirBnB for $100 a night. People do become quite “shady” though. As soon as our host discovered that we were visiting during Oktoberfest, she increased it to $150 a night plus $50 a night for a 3rd person. We didn’t book a room right in the epicenter but a room right off a train station. The train ride into the city was only 15 minutes and we didn’t have any issues getting in or out of Oktoberfest.

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What to Wear:

Most if not all are dressed wearing dirndls or lederhosen. Get the authentic stuff. If you’re an America, please don’t wear a halloween costume. It makes you look sleazy and it could be a little offensive to some. I purchased my dirndl at a German District in my hometown for about $125 but you can also order them online. If you are strep on time, you can always purchase one while you are there!2014-09-29 11.26.58

Reservations:

Entrance to Oktoberfest is completely free, however it’s recommended to make reservations in the Hofbrauhaus (beer tents) if you’re planning on enjoying a few liters. Our group did not make reservations last year. We had to make quick friends with strangers to get a seat or camped out early. One day, we arrived at the beer tents at 10am only to be moved several times to accommodate those who had made reservations. By the late evening, the tents were packed. If you’re planning on stepping out for some fresh air, your only way to re-enter is a reservation slip. Luckily, we found a group of English men who were willing to adopt us into their group.

If you’re planning on visiting on a weekend, come early. The tents get pack. If one is filled, keep going down the line until you’re able to be accommodated. There are 15+ tents!!!

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Security:

Before entering the tents, your bags do get checked. Don’t bring things like hairspray. My girlfriend decided to carry her entire bag without unpacking anything and she had to hide some goodies away.

Bring Some Spare Change
Oktoberfest is not just about drinking, it’s a huge fair where families can bring their kids. I went on a few rides and found some yummy finger foods.

Walking through Oktoberfest.

Eat Eat Eat:
I only recall splitting 2 meals with 2 of my girlfriends during my entire 4 day stay in Munich. By day 3, we felt miserable and missed our flight home to the States. The only foods that we could find in the tents were pretzels and doughnuts. They serve meals in the early mornings and when you reserve a table. If you didn’t make reservations, don’t sweat. A wonderful beer girl walks around with a basket filled with small delights. Flag her down and get some yummies in that tummy.

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Have fun and Mingle:

We met a lot of people from all over Germany and the world. We drank together, toasted and learned a few Traditional German songs. It was one of my favorite travel experience and I wish to return again real soon.

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Now there you have it. Things to prepare you for Oktoberfest in Munich.

Day 3: Toronto Diary: Road Trip to Niagara Falls

Buzz… Buzz.. Reach over and hit the snooze button. It’s 8AM and we decided to sleep in for an additional hour. We have a long day ahead of us with adventure to Niagara Falls.. But first, let’s eat!

Breakfast: Smith
Smith is a chic and trendy brunch restaurant located in the Rainbow District. It was such a beautiful day so we decided to take a seat in their cute, quaint patio. I ordered the Huevos Ranchero. I can’t go a vacation without Mexican style foods so I was pleased that that was an option on the menu.

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Road Trip
We hit the road around noon to Niagara Falls. There was quite a bit of traffic during our 2 hour drive. Instead of going directly to Niagara Falls like we planned, we pulled over for some wine tasting in Niagara On The Lake.

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Niagara On The Lake

: Truis

We just ate and we are already famish. We went to Trius since they offer food with their wine tasting. Sadly, they didn’t have any tables to accommodate us however, there was a grill bar in the back willing to cook us some burgers. I ordered the Sirlion Burger and a glass of white wine. Every thing was up to par. Delicious and you can’t beat the view.

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: Two Sisters Winery

We were ready for a real Wine Tasting experience. We went to Two Sisters. The estate was phenomenal however we felt out of place. Nobody was willing to help us so we marched to the next stop. 2015-08-15 15.38.02

: Peller Estate Winery

The 3rd winery was BUSY! We wanted to see the buzz so we tried to wedge ourselves between people. The winery only had 1 large table, perhaps 5 workers at the table and about 50 people trying to order drinks. We waited patiently and when we were helped, I requested for an Ice Wine (very sweet wine made from frozen grapes…specifically in Canada). My friend order a flight. After we sipped a few glasses, we asked for our bill but the worker told us that it was on the house because we waited a while. We left her a sizable tip and continued our way to Niagara Falls.

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Niagara Falls

As we were approaching Niagara Falls, I was taken aback. It felt like I was driving through downtown Reno. There were lights and billboards everywhere. We paid $10 for parking at a nearby lot.

It was scorching outside. We purchased some drinks before taking a short walk to Niagara Falls. We snapped photos from several angles. The falls were breathtaking, however, i wished we were able to get closer to it without standing in line for the boat tours. I am however pleased that you don’t have to pay a fee to view this spectacular falls.

After snapping a few photos, we hit up all the tourist shops before hitting the road.

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PanAm Closing Ceremony

As our trip was coming to a close, we wanted to take photos in front of the Toronto sign. We stepped out only to see crowds of people and fireworks lighting the sky. It was the PanAm Closing Ceremony. The roads were closed and we were unable to get a close look at the Toronto sign. Next time. We did witness the athletes leaving the premise. They were all in city buses escorted by lines of patrol cars. We all waved as they pass. It was a unique experience and I’m thrilled to have witness something like that. This was the best way to end our trip!

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