Wandering and Overreating in San Francisco

Jul 29, 2011

It was a foggy morning in San Francisco as Ryan and I set out for a day of exploring the way that I know best. Ditching the guide books and car, we rode the train to the city where we proceeded to wander by foot.
I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a long day. As soon as we'd emerged from the station and spotted the massive line of people waiting for cable cars, we opted to walk to the waterfront instead.
We began the hike up the steep hilly streets, happily wandering and snapping photos. We strolled through China town and eventually reached Fisherman's Wharf. Having successfully converted Ryan into a coffee drinker during our trip, we stopped at Starbucks for a caffeine fix and then carried on with our wandering. Mass amounts of camera shops along the way caused a slight delay, as we stopped to check prices and walked out with brand new polarizing filters. It certainly wasn't something we'd planned to purchase, but our photos from that point on were far better.
Once we'd reached the food stalls of Fisherman's Wharf we both realized just how amazing this city was. Both of us are seafood lovers, and the vast amount of crab, shrimp, mussels and clam chowder was almost overwhelming as we tried to decide what to eat first. We settled on clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, as it's somewhat of a "must-try" in San Francisco.
It was pretty darn delicious, despite the large glob that ended up in my hair thanks to the ridiculous wind. Never full, we pondered our next snack. We decided upon squid, which was yummy but could have done without the dressing that it was soaked in.
Next on our list was Ghirardelli Square. Any city that has an entire square dedicated to a brand of chocolate is good in my books. We browsed the chocolate shop, where we were offered a delicious sample. This satisfied my craving and convinced me to buy ice cream instead of more chocolate.
Oh my goodness, the ice cream. It's almost worth a blog entry in itself. We scanned the menu before deciding upon 2 massive sundaes... one called Mint Bliss, made with mint chocolate ice cream and hot fudge, and the other one called Gold Rush, which contained layers of ice cream, peanut butter, and hot fudge. Even while we were ordering, we knew that we'd regret it, but that didn't stop either of us. We indulged in the incredible sundaes, eating far past the point of feeling full. Did I feel disgusting once I'd conquered the ice cream? You bet. Was it worth it? Heck yes.
Feeling the need to walk off the sugar, we strolled down the long pier where we were rewarded with beautiful views of the city and Alcatraz. We even managed to spot a few sea lions swimming around in the water below us. We spent an extremely long time on the pier, caught up in taking photos of everything and anything.

I finally convinced Ryan to return to land, as I was freezing from the heavy sea breeze. We headed back towards Pier 39, browsing random shops along the way. Always ones to spend our money on useless and amazing items, we entered a kite store and left with a rather large Kitty Hawk airplane shaped kite. Being the practical engineer that he is, Ryan insisted on putting it together right then and there to ensure that it was in good condition. We stood in the store meticulously building the kite until it was finally good to go. From that moment on, I lost my fiance to a kite. Rather than holding my hand, he held onto the plane and ran around soaring it through the air. If I was anyone else, I'd probably think he was a bit silly, but admittedly it was my idea to buy that very kite and I'd known that this would happen.
Miraculously, we regained our sense of hunger as evening approached. Determined to indulge in crab, we sought out what looked to be the best restaurant. When we saw The Crab House in Pier 39, we knew that it was meant for us. We sat at a large table, propping the plane on the booth beside us and trying to refrain from ordering absolutely everything on the menu. Donning the bibs that the restaurant provided, we settled on steamed mussels and shrimp to start. A huge steaming platter was brought to our table with wine poured over top. Amazing.
Next up was the main course, and it was exactly what we'd hoped for. A huge plate of crab dripping in garlic butter was placed in front of us, much to our delight. It was so incredible that I never wanted it to end.
Sadly, it did end, but that didn't mean that the meal was over. Oh no, not for food addicts such as ourselves! Feeling that we'd already ate a week's share of dessert that day, we chose to order crab chowder instead. It may have looked like mush, but it was certainly the yummiest mush that I've ever tasted. Dinner was finally over and we were content with how amazing it had been.
We continued wandering Pier 39, full of all sorts of random stores that tempted us to spend our money. I walked away with a tiny airplane charm that I've been searching for for quite awhile. It even has 4 engines so I can get away with saying that it's an A380. The sun was setting over the water, forcing us to stop to take even more photos. Alcatraz sat beneath a layer of cloud and orange sky, looking eerie in the distance.
Before we could return home, we were distracted by an arcade where Ryan thought it would be a good idea to spend our pouch full of quarters. We were instantly drawn to a game that we'd seen many times before, where the object is to use coins to push other coins off of the ledge. It happens to be annoyingly addictive. Our quarters were gone, and Ryan began breaking out the dollar bills... "Just one more!". That's what they all say. $8 and 250 winning tickets later we left with our prizes... a styrofoam plane, some other junk toy, and not one, but 2 Laffy Taffy (only because the guy behind the counter threw in one for free). We were tired and it was dark, so we made the decision to go home and head to bed.
Realizing how far the walk was at that time of night, we opted to ride the cable car. Besides, we were in San Francisco and it seemed almost mandatory. Jam packed like sardines into the car, we rode up and down the streets until we reached the end of the line and the metro station. We rode the train back and to my relief my car was still intact and waiting for us at the other end. We drove back to the house, looked at our photos, and called it a night.
San Francisco won over our hearts, and our stomachs, but it's time to continue down the coast... next stop, LA!

california dreamin'

Jul 27, 2011

Life in California has been relatively peaceful considering the massive population and big city surroundings. Ryan and I have been doing exactly what vacations are intended for... relaxing.
Our friends Jon and Jody have taken great care of us, allowing us to stay in their home and touring us around the Bay area.
Yesterday we woke up to another beautiful California day. While Jody headed off to work, Jon and his 3 year old son had dentist appointments. Ryan and I agreed to stay home with the 11 month old baby while the others were gone.
As everyone left, Ryan decided that it would be an ideal time to rotate the tires on the car. I stayed inside with a baby who was heartbroken that his dad had left him all alone with a stranger. He cried for quite some time before finally falling asleep as I carried him around. Success! Only minutes later, Ryan walked back inside the house. At the sound of the door opening, the sleeping baby in my arms woke up and burst into tears once again. Way to go, Ryan. We struggled to cheer him up, only succeeding temporarily before he'd scream again. For those of you who will certainly be asking as soon as the wedding has happened, Ryan and I aren't planning on having kids in the near-ish future.
Jon finally returned home and magically calmed his sad baby in a way that only a parent can. Next on our day plan was a trip to Costco. It might not sound all of that exciting, but for Ryan and I it was. He bought an external hard drive and a huge supply of batteries, while I tossed some fresh cherries in the cart. Once we'd made our purchases, it was off to make a far more exciting purchase. We are now proud to be in possession of a pair of 3-day park hopper passes to Disneyland and California Adventure. I'm the most excited girl on the planet as I think about finally being able to meet Mickey Mouse.
Continuing on with our day, we stopped at a fast food outlet called Pollo Loco, where we sampled what Jon promised were some of the area's most delicious churros. Admittedly, they were pretty darn amazing. Having already passed the point of no return on our trend of unhealthy eating, we stopped at 7-11 to grab some pina colada flavoured slurpees. Best idea, ever. While we sipped our slurpees, Ryan took photos of planes landing overhead.
We finished off our day by joining Jon, Jody and their family for a barbecue and picnic in the park. We ate hot dogs and brownies and played at the park with the kids.
After dinner we took photos of the sun setting over San Francisco before we returned home for a quiet night of TV and general lazing around looking at the photos that we've taken thus far.
This morning we woke up and lounged around the house, contemplating taking photos of the sunrise but succumbing to our laziness. Jon had the day off again and the 3 of us were set for another day of photo adventures. It's great hanging out with people who actually find joy in standing at one spot for long periods of time just to capture the perfect shot. We drove through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, took a slight detour to Starbucks and then headed to Muir Woods National Monument, a huge forest full of giant Redwood trees.
Each of us stopped every few minutes for another photo. We took an hour to walk what would take a normal person only 10 minutes. Hundreds of photos later, we left the forest and continued on to In N' Out burger, where we dined on delicious burgers and fries. Say what you will, but I love American fast food chains in all of their greasy glory.
On the way back to the house we stopped for photos at a Mormon temple perched on the side of a hill with a stunning view of the city below. Normally open to visitors, it was closed for the day. Cameras in hand, we managed to entertain ourselves for quite some time taking photos of honeybees in the rose bushes.
Dinner came with even more delicious food. Jody and Jon made an amazing meal of tri-tip sandwiches, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes. Home cooked meals are especially delicious when you spend so much time on the go.
The rest of the evening was spent lazing on the couch with a cup of coffee in hand and a bag of kettle corn on the couch beside us. Life is good, and we love California!

road trippin' the usa

Jul 25, 2011

The day had finally arrived. After an entire month back home in Red Deer, there was finally some adventure in store for Ryan and I. The car was loaded, the gas tank was full, and we were ready to set off on an epic roadtrip. Getting by on caffeine and excitement, we hit the road early Saturday morning, traveling south.
We cruised through Alberta until the border, where we handed over our passports and drove into the United States. Montana was beautiful, much more than we'd expected it to be. We fought the urge to stop around every corner, trying to make good time.
A few more hours passed, and we reached Idaho. Once again, we were surprised at the landscape and the altitude as we drove through the state. The further south we drove, the warmer the outside temperature got. I was thrilled to finally have an entire day without a rain storm. Summer back home hasn't been great when it comes to weather.
It was getting late as we crossed the state line and drove into Utah. We'd been on the road for over 12 hours and both of us were ready to call it a night. To save time and money, we decided not to get a hotel room for the evening. Instead, we settled into a cozy stall in the parking lot of a Walmart in Salt Lake City. In our jam-packed car it wasn't all that comfortable, but it was better than nothing. Before falling asleep, however, we felt it necessary to wander the quiet aisles of the store, open 24 hours. That alone could almost convince me to move south of the border. It was 1 am and there we were, stocking up on memory cards for our cameras. We retreated to the car where we slept for a few hours before waking up to the sunrise. After a quick breakfast at McDonald's (where they have pancakes!!) we were back on the road.
The air smelled of salt and fish as we drove past Great Salt Lake and into the salt flats. The ground was white for miles on end, covered in a layer of salt. If it weren't for the soaring temperatures, you might almost mistake it for snow. We stopped for a few quick photos and then continued on our way.
Before we knew it, we were in Nevada! Surrounded by desert and under the blazing sun, it almost felt as if I'd been dropped off in Dubai. According to our thermometer, the outside temperature was 38 degrees celsius (about 100F). The land was barren. No trees, no homes, just miles of emptiness with a few prisons every couple of hours. It felt as though we'd never make it out. Time slowed to a halt as we drove through the state. Dust devils formed around us and tumbleweeds blew across the interstate. We finally reached Reno, and it seemed like a mirage after the miles of endless desert.
After a quick stop to fill up the gas, we were on the way again. Shortly after Reno we reached the sign that we'd been waiting for.... Welcome to California! It greeted us like an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, and we hopped out of the car to take photos in front of it. Aside from airport stopovers, it was my first time in California and I was ridiculously excited. The landscape changed dramatically as we crossed the state line. Trees! Nature!
We spotted the exit for Lake Tahoe and despite the fact that we were trying to make it to our destination as fast as possible, we couldn't bring ourselves to drive right past without stopping. We pulled into a small lakeside town filled with quaint cafes and sports shops. I picked up my usual fridge magnet and then carried on down the street to a surf and snowboard shop where we discovered a large rack of winter clothing on clearance. In the heat of the store I stood trying on winter jackets and snow pants. I walked out with my purchases, laughing at the fact that I'd found my winter attire in sunny California, but content with the fact that I was a bit more prepared for what I'm certain will be a long, cold winter with my snow-loving fiance. We shared a sandwich at a bench overlooking the massive lake before continuing on our road trip.
I was nervous as we drove on winding roads climbing up and down mountains at speeds that shouldn't have been legal, but were. Ryan loved every moment of it. I didn't calm down much as we got closer to the coast. As somebody who gets impatient at slight traffic jams in my small hometown, I was overwhelmed by 7 lanes of cars. As night settled in, we finally reached San Francisco, 6 tanks of gas and 11 pee breaks later.
Our friends Jon and Jody were kind enough to let us stay in their beautiful home, and we were relieved to finally have a bed to sleep in.
The next morning we woke up well rested and ready for a day of taking photos in San Francisco. Ryan, Jon and myself packed up our cameras and headed for the city. Our first stop was the famous Lombard Street. The steep road winded uphill, lined with pretty homes and camera toting tourists. A cable car passed by at the top, making it all so very cliche San Francisco. I loved it.
Our next stop was the landmark of the city... the Golden Gate Bridge. We took far too many photos and spent quite awhile admiring the red structure before moving on to have lunch at a place called Liverpool Lil's. Ryan and I shared a Reuben sandwich and a delicious burger, happy to be eating a real meal after 2 days of on-the-road snacks.
After lunch we proceeded to take more photos of the bridge from different angles. We walked along a beach barefoot, spotting a few people who took off more than just their shoes, as nudity was permitted. We even had the chance to drive across the bridge not once, but twice, feeling like movie stars. Content with our day, we headed for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen where we dined on Thai Chicken pizza and Hawaiian BBQ pizza, both delicious. On the way back home, we stopped to take photos of the sun setting over the bay, a perfect end to a great day. I'm loving California and don't want to leave... fortunately our vacation is only beginning!

one month later...

Jul 21, 2011

As of today, I've officially been home for one month! Unlike Dubai, where I spent half of my time flying and the other half sleeping, time slows to a halt back home. It feels as though I've been here for far longer than I actually have. Every day somebody asks "Do you miss it?" That all depends on the context of the question. Do I miss my job? Yes. I miss living in the sky and hopping around the world. Do I miss my friends? Of course! I miss watching movies and eating ice cream with Kim, I miss spending my salary at Ikea with Greta. Do I miss envelopes of cash being handed to me each time I check into a hotel? You bet I do. Forking over payment is far less exciting. When it comes to the main question, however, I have a slightly different answer. Do I miss Dubai? Not at all.
I don't miss trying to accomplish simple errands and the frustration that came with the many obstacles involved in each task. I don't miss the heat, although my stance on that may change a few months from now. I don't miss my deteriorating apartment with its leaky ceilings, creepy crawlies, or lack of hot water. I don't miss the taxis and I certainly don't miss the crew buses.
I may be having a bit of altitude withdrawal as I remain on ground, but other than that I'm still quite happy to be finished with the Middle East.
When it comes to adventure, I am getting a bit restless spending my days sitting around the house. I've spent weeks patiently waiting Ryan's completion of his pilot's license, and fortunately the end is near. As I type he's off to take his flight test, and I know that he'll pass with flying colours... get it, flying? Once he has that weight lifted off his shoulders, it's time for vacation!! This weekend we are leaving for an amazing road trip that will bring us south to California and back up the coast to make it to Victoria for a wedding in a few weeks. We have no timeline, and no set plans. I've managed to persuade Ryan to go to both Disneyland and the Boeing Factory in Seattle, so I'm a little bit (ridiculously) excited for this trip. We'll have the laptop and of course our cameras on the road, so rest assured, I'll be blogging as we go! California here we come!!!

Food addicts anonymous, i need you!

Jul 18, 2011

As far back as I can remember, I've loved food. While most parents had to think of creative ways to get their children to eat their dinner, mine had to stop me from eating everything in sight.
Getting a job as a flight attendant was a dream come true... it meant that I could sample some authentic dishes from countries all around the world! This blog evolved into somewhat of a food journal as I bragged about the delicious meals that I'd indulged in during my layovers. I may be home now, but it doesn't mean that I'm not still overindulging instead of falling into the typical bride's pre-wedding health kick.
Last week Ryan and I made a trip to Edmonton so that he could meet with his future boss to set up a start date for his new job. I waited patiently in the car, contemplating what we would eat for dinner. There are far more options in the big city! After a recommendation from a friend, we decided to feast on Greek food. Our destination was a restaurant called "Koutouki Taverna". We were led to our table hidden away to give us plenty of privacy. It didn't take us long to decide... we'd try the seafood mezze platter! We were brought dish after dish of delicious samples, easily enough to feed 4 people but enjoyed only by the 2 of us. Tzatziki, hummus, stuffed vine leaves, prawns, calamari, Greek potatoes, rice, and so much more that I can't even remember it all to list it! Needless to say, we left feeling quite full.
The next day had even more food in store for us. Once a year the famous Calgary Stampede takes place in Alberta, bringing with it a rodeo, midway rides and games, and best of all... carnival food! We were up extra early to drive to the city to meet up with Ryan's parents. We loaded up on a pancake breakfast before hitting the midway. Our first snack of the day was an ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and coated with peanuts. Mmm! Next on the list was bannock, a traditional Native Canadian bread. After a couple of overpriced rides and games, we grabbed a fresh lemonade and headed inside to watch the Ice Show, where Olympic champions (and my former idols) Jamie Sale and David Pelletier were performing. Once the show was over, Ryan's parents hit the road as the two of us stayed for more fun and food. For lunch was a jumbo hot dog, followed by another ice cream, later followed by Dippin' Dots and finally, MORE ice cream! We really didn't need the last serving, but it was free and I'm quite certain that saying no to free ice cream is completely unacceptable.
We left before we had the chance to eat anything else, heading home to visit with Ryan's cousin's brand new son... only 2 days old and so sweet!!
Another week over, and we are likely a few pounds heavier.
I really should make use of my gym membership.

Ryan is preparing for his flight test this week... after which he'll officially be a pilot and we'll officially be on vacation! We are in the process of planning an amazing road trip and I'll be sure to blog all about it!

Roughin' it in the Rockies

Jul 13, 2011

Despite my lack of recent blog entries, I haven't forgotten about you lovely people who still follow my life even after my cabin crew days. I've been surprisingly busy lately, having fun and enjoying what is meant to be summer.
My cousin Jay is still kicking around, experiencing Canadian culture (and by culture, I obviously mean food) and keeping me company as I drift through the days as a lazy unemployed person. Last week she made a trip to Edmonton where she made it to the final stage of interviews for a certain airline that I was recently employed at. As happy as I am to be home, I'm crossing my fingers that she gets the job. She's young, single, and there is absolutely nothing holding her back from jetting around the world. Not that I considered myself as being held back in a relationship, but it certainly affected my desire to live on the other side of the world and played a large role in my return to Canada. So please join me in wishing Jay the best of luck and I promise to force her to start her very own blog should she get the job.
In other (ridiculously exciting) news.... I bought a car!! After 18 months of enduring crew buses and the smelliest taxis in the world, I'd forgotten just how amazing it is to get in a car and drive wherever it is I want to go. I was lucky in that Ryan's sister and brother-in-law had recently purchased a more family appropriate mini-van and were in need of finding a new owner for their car. I'm happy to be that person. Despite my initial anxiety getting used to being behind the wheel again, I'm thrilled to be back on the road. I've been cruising around town singing to my music just like old times.
To celebrate my car's very first road trip, Ryan and I drove to the mountains to meet his parents for a weekend of camping! The weather wasn't great and Ryan had been kind enough to share his cold, making me feel rather miserable. I didn't care. I was going to take beautiful photos, eat delicious campfire food, and enjoy my weekend.
We woke up early on Saturday morning and headed west. We'd planned to make it to the campsite around 9 in the morning, just in time for breakfast. We were delayed after a stop at a car shop to purchase an air freshener led to Ryan wasting an hour loading up on random purchases that only a boy would find exciting. I now carry a tool kit in the back of my car because "you never know when you might need one." My favourite purchase of the day (aside from my vanilla scented air freshener) was a GPS. I find myself using it each time I get in the car, following the directions to my home as though I've never been there before. We used it to direct us to the campsite, where we arrived later then anticipated, but just in time for lunch!
Camping with Ryan's family is amazing. While most people survive on a diet of hot dogs and marshmallows when cooking over fire, we feasted on pizzas and bacon and egg pies. I'm a bit addicted to camping pizzas, cooked to perfection in pie irons over the fire. With each delicious bite I feel a bit of accomplishment in the fact that I cooked my meal all by myself. We ate to our heart's desire, set up our tent, and then planned out our day. After a short nap, we were going to go hiking!
Camera bags packed with all of the essentials, we got into the truck and drove towards Peyto Lake. On the way, I snapped a few photos as we drove by a black bear! It had been years since I'd seen a real live bear in the wild, and I was very excited.
We arrived at the starting point for the trail and set off on our way. The weather was less than desirable, but it was probably for the best as I'm sure it eliminated a few tourists from swarming the place. The lake was stunning. To this day I'm amazed each time that I see water in such an amazing shade of blue. Had I not seen it in person I'd probably be convinced that it was digitally enhanced in photos.
We took the mandatory photos, which between Ryan and I is more than most people would take in a month. Continuing up the not so beaten path, we made our way up the mountain for a better vantage point and a bit of exercise. Normally I quite enjoy hiking, but the combination of the cold air (I've only been back from Dubai a short time!), high altitude and my stuffed up sinuses, I wasn't feeling so well. I toughed it out for the photos and the views, and I'm glad that I did. It was beautiful the further we walked. We saw two not-so-common animals... a pika and a marmot.
Hundreds of photos later, we went back down to the truck, made another photo stop at another beautiful lake, and finally returned to the campsite.
For dinner, we had pizza again. I never seem to get sick of them! After dinner we played a card game despite my cough medicine induced drowsiness. Finally, it was off to bed. I'd never been so happy to crawl into a tent.
The next morning I woke up feeling equally as miserable as the night before. Fortunately, the weather was better and the sun even appeared to be peeking out from behind the clouds! We made our breakfast as usual and then set out for another day of mountain adventures. We decided to hike up Stanley Falls, a pretty trail alongside a canyon with 7 sets of waterfalls. This was photo paradise, and we made frequent stops to give our cameras some exercise of their own. Despite waking up feeling ill, the fresh air and exercise actually made me feel a whole lot better this day. At the top of the trail we stopped for a snack before turning back and continuing our scenic drive.
We stopped at the Columbia Icefield, which is home to several huge glaciers and is a popular tourist attraction. Rather than crossing the street and visiting the glacier that we've been to many times before, we went to the cafe for ice cream.
Our next stop was another set of waterfalls. First, we saw Panther Falls and further down the path was Bridal Veil Falls. It was a pretty hike, but since it was downhill the entire way, it meant that we had to walk uphill all the way back to the truck. Out of breath and feeling rather out of shape, we happily made our way back to the campsite for dinner. I felt spoiled as we dined on steak and potatoes. They eat better camping than I do with a full kitchen available to me!
After dinner the sun began to set and I persuaded Ryan that we should go for a drive to take photos. While his parents played games, we drove out in search of great photo opportunities. It was a beautiful night but we were feeling rather uninspired by the sunset. We made one final photo stop before turning around and deciding to head home. As Ryan began to drive I stared out the window and saw a large brown animal in the grass. "Bear!!!" I shouted, a bit unsure of whether it actually was a bear. "Bear! BEAR!!!" I shouted, more excited now. He quickly pulled over and saw the bear for himself... a grizzly!! Without responsible adults around to tell us that stopping so close was a bad idea, we pulled over and giddily began to take photos as the bear munched on berries and plants. As he would walk further up the road, we'd back up the car to continue taking photos. It was a like a photography dream for camera nerds like ourselves. We would have spent all night taking photos, but it was getting dark and the bear was growing impatient. He finally looked up towards us, thrilling us as we continued snapping photos.
If he hadn't noticed us before, he certainly did now. He stomped one large foot against the ground and for a moment my heart stopped as I was sure that he was about to run towards us. "Drive!!!" I screamed, nervous. With his foot on the gas pedal Ryan waited to see what would happen. Fortunately for us and my new car, the bear continued his business, feeling that he'd given us sufficient warning to maintain our distance. Just as he began to cross the street a huge tour bus pulled up and the windows lit up with flashes of cameras. We let the tourists have their moment and headed back to the campsite.
It was now dark and I was feeling a bit anxious about sleeping in a tent after being so close to a grizzly bear, but I fell asleep quickly and survived the night without being eaten by bears. We'd had a great weekend but it was time to head back home. Ryan would have been happy to stay another week, but I personally had never felt more excited for a long shower and a comfortable bed. Home we went, feeling rather fortunate to live in such an incredible place!

my first visitor!

Jul 8, 2011

Around this time 3 years ago, I was living in Australia doing the working-backpacker thing. I had just spent nearly 3 months living on a remote island surrounded by dingos and I was longing for city life. I found my way to Brisbane, where I planned to meet Jay, a distant cousin, but family nonetheless. I'd met some of her family earlier on in my journey, but we'd maintained contact on Facebook and were determined to meet in person.
We organized a breakfast meeting and hit it off. We were instant friends! The next day, I moved into her house and a day later we'd book flights to Fiji. We had a great summer in Brisbane and vowed to reunite again, someday.
That day came this week! Also badly infected with the travel bug, Jay had just spent a few months wandering South America and was ready for something new. I was thrilled to have her and show her around my home.
Ryan and I met her at the airport on Monday morning. I held up a sign to welcome her.... not just any sign, but a sign lovingly made and loaded with glitter. I was probably more excited than she was about her arrival to my lovely homeland.
I proceeded to drag her out to karaoke night, where we were charmed and insulted by an intoxicated man who provided a great source of entertainment for the evening.
We've spent the rest of the week lazing around the house. I feel a bit bad for the fact that I suddenly lead such an uneventful life, nor do I own a vehicle. We are both catching up on our American television... I sure have missed it!
In other news, time really goes by slowly when you are on the ground! As a flight attendant, I'd spend half of my life in the sky and the rest of it sleeping. Weeks passed as if they were days, and before I knew it another month was gone. I feel as though I've been home for 2 months, but when I actually stop to think about it, it's been less than 3 weeks. I've yet to decide if this is good or bad, but I'm going to lean towards good at the moment seeing as how it is summer and summer never seems to last long enough when you live in Canada.
The weather here is ridiculous. Last night a massive storm swept through, bringing rain, hail, and even a few tornadoes. Red Deer was placed under a tornado warning and as families sought shelter in their basements, I was with my adrenaline junkie of a fiance, following the storm in search of great photos. The photos were great, I'll give him that, but I was pretty nervous as I watched the angry sky convinced that a tornado was about to drop down and sweep us away. We made it home safe and sound, and Red Deer remained intact despite the fears. This is quite normal to us Albertans. Tornado warnings, like ice cream, are just another part of summer. It might be scary, but it's home! I'm still happy to be here!

one big birthday party

Jul 3, 2011

As somebody who has spent more of the past 4 years out of the country than in it, it might be hard to believe that I'm as ridiculously patriotic as I claim to be. Rest assured, I really, really love my home. It was Canada Day and I was happy to be in the country celebrating as opposed to enduring a sandstorm in the sweltering Dubai heat. I began my day the way that a large percentage of Canadians begin every day: drinking Tim Horton's coffee. "Timmy's" is as Canadian as hockey, or snow, or other icons of the country. As I sipped my delicious iced cap, I contemplated what to do with the rest of the day. Ryan was busy flying and I was getting a bit restless sitting around instead of celebrating Canada's birthday.
I'd been driving Ryan crazy begging him to drive to the mountains. I was thrilled when he called to let me know that he was on his way home to pick me up for our road trip. I was even happier when he showed up and instructed me to pack a bag, as we'd be staying the night. While the rest of our friends and family camped, we opted out of roughing it in favour of a hotel. Packed and ready to go, we hit the highway!
Although it would have been faster to avoid driving through Calgary, no mountain road trip is complete without first stopping at Peter's Drive In for burgers and milkshakes. In honour of Canada Day, we ordered a milkshake flavoured with maple.
Full and satisfied, we continued on our journey. Along the way we stopped on a random stretch of the highway and hopped out to take some of what will end up being our engagement photos. We eventually made it to Canmore and checked into our hotel, the same one that we stay at for most of our overnight trips. After a bit of time relaxing in our room, we decided it was time for some drinks and a bite to eat. Our relationship seems to be largely based around meal times. We walked to Boston Pizza, where Ryan drank beer and I enjoyed a classic Canadian Caesar. I used to be disgusted at the spicy Clamato juice concoction, but in recent months it's become my drink of choice. Continuing our already unhealthy day, we ordered Thai chicken bites and cheesy spinach dip. Delicious!
We returned to our hotel room after a quick photo stop as I insisted upon sitting on the bear statue out front.
Back in the room, I forced a sleepy Ryan out of bed to set out in search of the park where the fireworks were being held. After a chilly walk, we found it and got a great seat on the bleachers. The wind was cold, and we sat huddled together using our giant Canadian flag as a blanket. We waited patiently for the sky to darken and the fireworks to begin.
Finally, the sky lit up with an amazing show. Canmore certainly outdid itself! The fireworks continued on much longer than we'd expected, lighting up the mountains with each burst of colour. Once the show was finally over, a man in the crowd stood up and to shout "Hey everybody, let's sing Oh Canada!". The entire park began to proudly belt out our national anthem, and at that moment I was likely the proudest and happiest Canadian in the world.
How blessed I am to be from such a beautiful and friendly place!!
We returned to our hotel and crawled under the warm blankets for a great night's sleep.
The next morning we were up bright and early, quite typical for us these days. After the free breakfast at the hotel we checked out and hit the road. I persuaded Ryan to stop at Tim Horton's, but after seeing how incredibly massive the line was, we decided not to wait. We stopped at a small coffee shop in town instead, where I continued my patriotic ways by ordering a maple latte.
We'd managed to leave the park pass at home, making entering Banff national park impossible without buying a new one. Slightly disappointed by this realization, we contemplated our options before deciding to take an alternate route. We winded down gravel roads nestled between mountains and beautiful lakes. As usual, there were many photo stops included in our journey. Taking your very own engagement photos is not as easy as it sounds, but my picky photographer fiance wouldn't have it any other way. With the mountains as a backdrop, I'm certain they'll be perfect.
We cruised along listening to an ABBA CD that the previous car owner had left. Feeling hungry several hours after breakfast, we stopped at a small store in a campground to stock up on goodies. Loaded with ice cream and Cheezies, we were too hungry to feel any guilt for our terrible eating habits.
There wasn't much to the day besides driving, but I was perfectly content gazing at the stunning scenery. The mountains gradually grew shorter and before we knew it, we were back to the flat prairie land. We drove through tiny towns and imagined what life must be like in such a small community. Having lived in the middle of nowhere in my younger years, I'm pretty certain that I'm better suited to the heart of the big city.
We had one more stop before returning home. You guessed it... dinner! As we reached Calgary city limits, I navigated until we reached our destination. Red Lobster!! Ryan and I are both a bit too in love with seafood, and we happily waited for a table to be available. Having already given up any hope of healthy eating for the day, we indulged. Bacon wrapped scallops and seafood stuffed mushrooms to start, and the ultimate feast (lobster, crap, and shrimp, oh my!) for our main course. Every bite was worth the disgustingly full feeling that lingered for hours after the meal.
It was finally time to return home and head straight to bed. It had been a relatively short getaway, but a great one none the less. I couldn't think of a much better way to celebrate and appreciate my country!

Oh Canada

Jul 1, 2011

Today is a very important day.
Today my beautiful country celebrates its birthday! Happy Canada Day to all of my fellow Canadians both at home and abroad.
Growing up I never thought much of the fact that I was Canadian. It was where I had been born and raised but I didn't think it was all that special. After a vast amount of traveling and a little bit of maturing, I've realized what most young adults do at some point... childhood me knew nothing.
I realize now how truly blessed I am to have been born in a country that is so vast, beautiful, and provides me so much freedom. It's safe here, and people say "Hi!" as they walk by. We love hockey, a certain brand of coffee, and we've learnt to deal with harsh winters. I've seen the world and many amazing places, but this place will always be my home.
I love you Canada! Happy Birthday!

Maple the Moose joined me on many of my adventures around the world, and he thinks Canada is a pretty cool place too!