Thursday, August 25, 2016

ancient athens and dreamy santorini

Me being dumb at the Acropolis.

We flew from Vancouver to Toronto to Rome to Athens and spent a day marveling at the ancient wonders around every corner. We climbed the Acropolis and sweated it out with a bunch of tourists. In sixth grade I made a model of the Parthenon for a social studies project. We drew numbers and I remember I got first pick and out of all the famous buildings and structures in Europe, I picked the Parthenon. It is truly amazing to think of these thousand years old structures in their heyday and then to marvel at what is impressively still standing. If you don't want to pay for a guided tour we downloaded a bunch of Rick Steves audio tours and played them on our phones. The Acropolis one was pretty good.

After Athens we took a ferry to SANTORINI!!! This was my absolute favorite part of our trip for many reasons and one of the top reasons is my dream of going to Santorini after seeing Alexis Bledel play Lena Kaligaris in the underrated cinematic masterpiece, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. 
Oia at sunset.

We heard all about the legendary Santorini sunsets and especially the hype around seeing the sunset at Oia. Santorini tip #1: The sunset is beautiful from all the cities in Santorini!! It gets super crowded in Oia as you can see from the pic and people literally perch on the roof and stairs to get good view but I think it's even more enjoyable from the less crowded spots.

Our first two nights we stayed in a gorgeous little cottage in Imerovigli. We took buses between Imerovigli, Fira and Oia. Imerovigli was the least crowded but didn't have as many shops and restaurants or the iconic blue domes. Fira is where the night life is and probably the most crowded. Oia is home to the blue domes and is definitely more touristy, but my favorite of the three cities.

One day we hiked to Ammoudi Bay which is a great little fishing town and you can jump off the rocks and swim. It was the perfect end to a dusty and sweaty hike. We also had an amazing freshly caught seafood lunch here.

I never got sick of the blue and white. 

There are a lot of great restaurants in Santorini but honestly my favorite meals were the 4 euro gyros. So cheap and so delicious. I highly recommend grabbing a few and finding some roof or stairs and taking in the perfect views. My favorite gyro was at Lucky's Souvlaki if you're ever in the area ;)

Oh beautiful Santorini. I love you and I will be back for your white houses and blue roofs someday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

tofino and vancouver, b.c.

My first time surfing. Tofino had great beginner beaches. Nobody ever talks about how heavy surfboards are!! Or maybe I'm just a pipsqueak. I dream of being an effortlessly cool surf chick that gets featured on Madewell's Instagram but judging from my first two surfing experiences and my poor swimming skills, it might just remain a dream.
Beach hikes that were much less strenuous than our Banff and Yoho hikes. Ynna Hiking Scale 1/10 difficulty, 6/10 reward.

One of two lovely Tofino sunsets. 
We came back to Burnaby to enjoy one more week of Preston's hometown. I could not get over the perfect summer weather especially after recently escaping the beginnings of what looks like another awful Dallas summer.

One of two local hikes. This is the top of Dog Mountain.
Another evening we went to Theater Under the Stars and saw Beauty and the Beast! Before the show we biked around Stanley Park.

Canada was great and another summer trip was just what I needed to soften my heart towards our neighbors up north hehe. Preston is always trying to convince me we should live in Canada and I always have the same reasons why I don't want to live in Vancouver and the #1 reason is the dreary weather 90% of the year. Every time we go back his family and friends are super honest with me and straight up say that it always rains. Meanwhile Preston felt the need to point out the lovely 75 degree and sunny weather the one week we visited every chance he got. Vancouver is a great city and everyone should visit :)

Monday, August 22, 2016

to banff and yoho we go

July 8 we flew to Vancouver to spend time with the Kutneys and see what British Columbia had to offer in terms of hiking, camping and nature in general. Spoiler alert: BC has a hell of a lot to offer in the nature department and everyone needs to experience it!!
First we drove to Banff National Park. We arrived the night of July 10, saw Lake Louise and slept in a hostel. On the morning of the 11th we rented helmets and began the Sentinel Pass hike starting at Moraine Lake. I got a glimpse of the unreal turquoise water at Lake Louise the night before and Moraine Lake further increased my amazement of the incredible blue water. 
Sentinel Pass was a series of steep switchbacks to the Valley of Ten Peaks (literally you could see all ten peaks it was gorgeous) which was a nice break before more switchbacks to the actual Sentinel Pass. We took a little break and proceeded to scramble up Mount Temple (enter hiking helmets) and got about a quarter of the way up before turning around. I was too cold and scared and there was snow at the top. According to the Ynna Hiking Scale and based on my fairly active lifestyle at the time, I would rate this hike a 6.5/10 for difficulty and 9.5/10 for reward. Elevation gain was pretty big and the first series of switchbacks was the hardest part for me. Views were really gorgeous though and worth the struggle.
Light scrambling up to Mount Temple before I got too cold.

Sometimes you need a mid-hike nap.

We camped in the Lake Louise campground the night of the 11th and 12th. On the morning of the 12th we took a shuttle to Lake O'Hara and began the Alpine Circuit hike. We had to reserve our spot three months before because the number of hikers is limited for this area. The terrain varied from straight up rock and boulder piles, grassy valleys and lots of little streams we had to hop across. Ynna Hiking Scale gives this a 5/10 for difficulty and 10/10 for reward. Truly incredible unobstructed views the entire hike. I got annoyed at how many times Preston had me stop so he could take panoramas.

I'm definitely not a hiking expert but my biggest tips are kind of no-duh but important:
1) Wear layers and avoid cotton. My biggest mistake was having a cotton tshirt/tank as my thinnest layer and the one closest to my skin. I sweat a lot and the temperatures on these hikes vary. Luckily when we went it stayed a pleasant 50-60 degrees but I'd sweat a lot going up steep inclines then cool down again and be stuck shivering with a damp base layer at a high elevation. Best piece of clothing I brought was my Outdoor Voices Catch-Me-If-You-Can hoodie. Perfect weight, great to wear alone or as an extra layer for more warmth.
2) Bring a raincoat! Check the forecast. We were lucky and only got some drizzles on the first day and got caught in the rain for about an hour the second day even though both days called for nonstop rain.
3) Bring snacks and water. Duh. I'm very obsessed with salty/sweet ratios so I had to have granola bars, gummies, pop tarts AND beef jerky, chips, nuts. I know there are fancy REI hiker snacks you can get too but these are just my faves.
Banff and Yoho were so beautiful and I recommend anyone who loves the outdoors to visit these parks as they are some of the most scenic places in North America.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

farewell dallas

Haven't blogged in months cuz we have been sooo busy being employed, unemployed, vacationing and moving across the country!!!
Preston and I quit our jobs on July 7, packed up our apartment and left the morning of July 8 for Vancouver, Canada. Amidst cleaning our apartment, packing up our car and throwing out what felt like half of our belongings, a peaceful protest in response to the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling was held across the street from our apartment. I can't emphasize enough the word peaceful- families with young children, teenagers, adults and law enforcement made up the crowd. We left downtown to drop our car off at a friend's house and took a Lyft back home to finish packing and cleaning. A few hours had gone by and we went downstairs to put things in the dumpster and saw all our neighbors gathered in the lobby and outside of our building. They warned us not to go outside and to be careful. Confused, we asked what was going on. We thought maybe the protest had gotten a little rowdy or maybe even violent. That's when the terrible events of July 7 unfolded from different neighbors accounts. We watched outside while scrolling Twitter learning new awful facts every few minutes. 
Peaceful protesting early evening July 7.

Five police officers were killed and seven officers and two civilians were injured in the shooting. It was an act of hate and senseless violence so shortly after two innocent young men lost their lives. It was a terrible way to leave the city we called home for the last three years. I am thankful for the service of the Dallas Police Department and admire their bravery and strength in the face of such tragedy. 
Our street a little after first shots were fired.

I didn't love Dallas. It was way too hot, there wasn't anything to do outside and I couldn't for the life of me understand the in-your-face loyalty and pride Texans had for their state. Despite all these things, Dallas will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the first place we ever called home. We left all our best friends and packed up everything we owned in our little Civic and drove to this blazing hot city in the middle of summer. We made amazing friends in Dallas. We got our first real grown-up jobs in Dallas. We grew together in Dallas and it will always be one of our cities.
July 8 right before going to the airport.